Following his retirement in June of 2012 after working for 42 years at Defiance Area Youth for Christ, Jack Fetter knew he was far from finished volunteering to do the Lord’s work.
Fetter, a Grover Hill resident, found an opportunities in Williamstown, Ky. That’s where a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark is being constructed according to the dimensions found in the Bible in Genesis 6:15: “And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.” (510 feet long, 125,000 square feet, 45 feet high).
The Ark Encounter project is a sister attraction of the Creation Museum located in Petersburg, Ky., led by Ken Ham, president, CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis.
Construction on Ark Encounter began in 2012, with a target date to open July 7. According to the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, it is estimated that the attraction will bring between 1.4 million and 2.2 million visitors a year, add 21,000 jobs to the region, and its economic impact could be $4 billion.
“It was decided in 2012 that the Ark Encounter project would move forward, so (Answers in Genesis) purchased 800 acres where the park is now,” said Fetter, who runs Fetter & Friends ministry from his home in Grover Hill. “One of the biggest misconceptions about this project is that it’s located next to the Creation Museum, but in fact the two properties are 40 minutes apart. Back in 2012, when I was looking for ministry opportunities, other than Fetter & Friends, I started going to the Creation Museum.
“I began using teaching materials from the museum for my ministry, where I go into schools and teach students about different animals (his friends) and God’s creation,” continued Fetter. “When I learned about Ark Encounter, I decided I would volunteer on the project. My wife Karen’s dad lives about 40 minutes from there in Hamilton, so I’ve been going down, spending several days volunteering, and staying with my father-in-law. I’ve volunteered at the warehouse there many times, it’s where they not only send out the teaching materials, but where the animals for the ark are being constructed.”
Once completed, the ark will be the largest timber-framed structure in the United States. The project includes a 4,000-space parking lot, a lake, the new Ararat Ridge Zoo that will feature zebras, llamas, alpacas, camels, Mediterranean donkeys, emus, yaks, sheep and kangaroos. Camel and donkey rides will be available, as will a petting zoo.
Inside the ark, wooden decks, ramps and handrails line the ship, with large bays filled with several exhibits. Figures representing Noah and his family are clothed in the ancient style, with pottery and tools among the items displayed to resemble what the family might have had on the ark. The animal displays will feature the ancestors of modern-day animals, representing the “kinds” mentioned in the Bible. The ark is expected to be able to accommodate about 16,000 guests per day.
Additional future phases for the attraction include a pre-flood walled city, the Tower of Babel, a first-century village, a journey in history from Abraham to the parting of the Red Sea, a walk-through aviary, an expanded petting zoo and other attractions.
“The first 40 days and 40 nights the ark will be open, there will be two shifts for people to come and take a tour,” said Fetter, who also a charter member of Ark Encounter. “The first shift will be from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and the second shift from 5 p.m.-midnight. It’s very, important to know that because of the demand to tour the ark, you have to make a reservation, people won’t be able to just go and get in. Reservations can be made by going to arkencounter.com.”
As a charter member of the project, (Karen is also a charter member) Fetter has had the opportunity to both fly over, and tour the ark.
“I’ve been to the ark three different times, the first before they constructed the foundation, the second to take a helicopter ride over the top of the building of the ark, and the third to go inside the ark,” said Fetter. “When I was up in the helicopter, which was my first ride ever in one, I said to the pilot when we flew over parking lot, ‘That doesn’t look like that’s going to hold very many cars.’ He said to me, ‘Jack, we’re a mile-and-a-half above the ground, it will hold thousands of cars.’
“It was a neat perspective up in the air, but to be honest, the scope of the entire project can really overwhelm you,” added Fetter. “In April, about 1,000 of us were able to take a brief tour where we were allowed to walk up to the first and second stories. They didn’t stop construction, so we only saw about 20 percent of the ark. You know, when you see a beam so big that you can only get half your arms halfway around it ... everything about the ark is just overwhelming. The length itself is one-and-a-half football fields.”
Fetter is not only excited about the opening of Ark Encounter, but the overall mission of the project.
“They (Answers in Genesis) want people to experience the most authentic reconstruction of Noah’s Ark, with ‘authentic’ being the key word,” said Fetter. “They really want people to see what life was like in Noah’s day, to get answers about the great flood and to learn that the one door on the ark represents the one and only way to God is through His Son, Jesus Christ. God hates sin, and it was at this point in history that mankind had become so rebellious, that God needed to start over again.
“God is a forgiving God, but at the end, there will be judgment,” added Fetter. “We’re all going to face the Lord one day, and this project is a great reminder of what God did by sending His Son, Jesus, to earth to die for the sins of mankind. They pray this will be a life-changing experience where many will desire to have a personal relationship with Christ and serve Him.”