It is one of the world’s classic stories.A gigantic ark gets built with the help of a higher power. It is a huge, grandiose structure constructed out of wood that is perhaps larger than anything comparable in the world. Then heavy rains begin to fall, inundating the earth around it.And that’s when the lawyers are called.Genesis, this is not. Not in 2019, not in the United States.Ark Encounter, the multimillion-dollar theme park and monument to fundamentalist Christianity whose centerpiece is a giant replica of Noah’s Ark, is suing its insurance carriers over rain-related damages on the property.The company, Crosswater Canyon, is seeking to recoup what it says were $1 million worth of damages, as well as attorneys fees and costs, and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.The irony has not been lost on local media organizations and observers on social media. Even the American Atheists took a shot on Twitter.This particular chapter begins in 2017, when rains came to northern Kentucky. They did not fall for 40 days and 40 nights this time.According to the National Weather Service, on-and-off precipitation throughout the year dropped 40-50 inches of rain that year on Williamstown, the town where the theme park is located – just a slight bump above average.But a slope abutting an access road near the east side of the theme park’s ersatz ark began to fail in May, and eventually was subject to a “significant landslide” that took out a barrier along the road, according to the lawsuit.“The Ark itself does not sit next to the damaged areas,” the theme park said Friday, taking issue with reports that attributed the damage to a flood. “The Ark was built on bedrock and was never in jeopardy.”It reported the property damage to its insurance companies.
The 510 foot reproduction of Noah’s Ark.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
Engineers it hired recommended it replace the barrier with a retaining wall with drilled concrete shafts to prevent further damage, and the theme park also repaved and repaired portions of the road, the grading and added some drainage improvements. The total cost was about $1 million, the lawsuit says.But the insurance companies denied claims for the improvements, saying that the policy had an exclusion for correcting design deficiencies or faulty workmanship.The two sides went back and forth, according to the lawsuit and the insurance companies did pay a “very small portion” of Ark Encounter’s claim. But the organization says they have “breached their contractual obligations, acted in bad faith, and violated Kentucky law by failing to provide further coverage.”The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in district court in Kentucky. The Allied World Assurance Co. is named as a defendant, along with three other carriers, none of which responded to requests for comment.The $120 million Ark Encounter, where adult tickets cost $48, was completed in 2016, with a zoo, zip lines, and a restaurant in addition to its five-storey high replica ark. It was the brainchild of Ken Ham and his ministry, Answers in Genesis, which also created the Creation Museum. Ham, is a Christian fundamentalist and creationist who argues that the Bible is a historical narrative that is meant to be taken literally.
Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, and his group created the ark to match its description in the Bible at an estimated cost of more than US$100 million.
Bloomberg photo by Luke Sharrett
He believes that dinosaurs lived alongside humans and that the biblical flood created the Grand Canyon. And he maintains that Noah labored seven decades to construct his vessel and was 600 years old when the storm surged.He did not respond to a request for comment sent to Ark Encounter spokeswoman Melany Ethridge.“The lawsuit speaks for itself,” read a statement she distributed on behalf of the park. “Ark Encounter guests have been unaffected by the work being done at the access road. Hours of operation were never affected.”The theme park was met with no small amount of controversy when it opened, focused mainly on its sources of funding, including the $62 million in junk bonds that were floated by the town of Williamstown.The ACLU and other groups charged that Answers in Genesis should have not been eligible for state and local subsidies because of its discriminatory hiring practices.As a condition of employment, the museum and ark staff of 900, including 350 seasonal workers, must sign a statement of faith rejecting evolution and declaring that they regularly attend church and view homosexuality as a sin.
Answers in Genesis, the group that built Ark Encounter, believes that dinosaurs coexisted with humans.
The Washington Post by Luke Sharrett