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Germany

Creationist Theme Park Plan Stirs Up Locals

A Swiss firm has announced plans to construct a "Genesis Land" in the Heidelberg area. But local politicians and theologians don't like the prospect of becoming home to an anti-Darwin amusement park.

An artist's rendering of a giant sauropod

According to conservative creationist beliefs, dinosaurs and humans probably co-existed

According to the developers' plans, Genesis Land would feature a "life-sized" Noah's arch, a ride simulating the Biblical Flood and a 3-D animated retelling of the New Testament.

The Swiss firm Genesis Land Inc. is currently seeking investors to back the project. The company's aim is to raise 25 million euros ($38 million) -- around a third of the capital needed for construction of a 50-hectare park.

The firm has targeted the vicinity around Heidelberg because the area contains a lot of water.

Gian-Luca Carigiet

Gian-Luca Carigiet says visitors will be able to make up their own minds

The project's initiator is Gian-Luca Carigiet, chairman of the Swiss anti-Darwin group Pro-Genesis. The project's Web site says it aims to "communicate Biblical history and a Biblical message in a modern, experience oriented way."

The park is modeled on religious venues in the United States such as the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida, which attracts a half-million visitors a year.

Genesis Land calculates it needs about 100,000 more than that to break even.

Natives not amused

Human skeleton next to ape skeletons in a natural history museum in East Berlin

You wouldn't find anything like this at the park

But religious and political representatives from the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg are less than enthusiastic about a facility inspired by the belief that the earth is around 6,000 years old, and that human beings and dinosaurs co-existed.

"A project like this only gets in the way of our attempts to spread the faith," Hansjörg Hemminger, the Wuerttemberg Protestant Church's Spokesman on World Views told the newspaper Die Welt.

Civic planners, too, are against Genesis Land.

Artist's rendition of park

Plans for the park center around a building shaped like Noah's ark

"Such a project isn't going to get any support from us," Raban von der Malsburg, the official in charge of construction in Heidelberg, told the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung newspaper.

Christoph Trinemeier, the director of a regional association, shares the belief that creationism wouldn't enhance the area's reputation.

"Scientists from the entire world live and do research at the most modern level in our region," he said to the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung as grounds for opposing Genesis Land.

But the project is still very much in the planning stage and may never become reality -- which is reason for optimism among detractors.

"Many stupid ideas have been hindered by a lack of money," Jan Badewein, an official for the Protestant Church in Heidelberg, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

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