Vlad the Dracula

BUCHAREST, Romania -- Tourism officials rejected criticism Friday that construction of a Dracula theme park in Transylvania threatens a nearby medieval citadel.

Dracula Park is to be built in Sighisoara, hometown of the 15th century prince Vlad the Impaler, who inspired novelist Bram Stoker for his practice of impaling captured Turks and other enemies on stakes.

The Tourism Ministry said UNESCO expressed concern that large numbers of tourists and cars expected at the amusement park would threaten the preservation of the nearby Sighisoara citadel, a UNESCO heritage site.

Deputy Tourism Minister Alin Burcea rejected the criticism, calling the fears “unrealistic.” He said tourism and UNESCO officials will meet later this month to further discuss the project.

“Depending on that meeting, the Tourism Ministry will study the impact of the project and find solutions,” the private news agency Mediafax quoted Burcea as saying.

Burcea said the government on Saturday would sign a contract with an international auditor to evaluate the project.

Britain’s Prince Charles and the environmental group Greenpeace have also expressed concerns about the park being built in Sighisoara, leading Tourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon to suggest it might be built outside the country. He said he would resign if that happened.

The park, to be privately funded, will cost about $15.6 million, with an additional $19 million needed for infrastructure improvements.

The park will include amusement rides, a golf course, a Gothic castle wired with spooky effects, a zoo, horseback riding, restaurants and shops.

The government hopes the park will attract tourists and improve the region’s ailing economy.