Paid To Get In, But Locked Out

HARDY, AR -- This is the time of the year that a lot of people begin planning their summer getaways, but for hundreds of people along the Spring River in Hardy, it's looking like their plans are still on hold.

The gates are locked and dogs are guarding the entrance, signs that Riverbend Park is closed. But the people who own property inside the gates are still getting billed for a membership they can't even use.

Last September, Bryan Butts' RV was damaged when the Spring River burst it's banks into Riverbend Park. They thought by this summer, things would be cleaned up and they'd be able to come back, but that's not looking so promising.

"It's disappointing too, because being up there 12 years, you obviously have a lot of money invested in the place, plus the friends," says Butts.

Since the flood, several things at the park have come to light. The E.P.A. has closed the park due to violations dating back to 2001 and they say until those things are corrected, the park is going to stay closed.

"It's a very confusing situation. Nobody seems to know who's in charge. One group is sending out bills for assessments, but they are not saying what you're going to get for your money," says Butts.

Currently, about 400 members of the Riverbend Property Owner's Association are seeking legal action against the owner of the park.

"There's a park association committee also that's basically recommending that you don't send any money in because it's still in the courts and battling over who's in control of it," says Butts.

But at the same time, the park manager, Clifton Johnson, is sending out letters and bills to the property owners wanting them to pay up for this year. But they can't even use their property and probably won't be able to for a while. Michelle Salard and her husband Gary share the same frustrations.

"Don't know what to believe, who to believe, or what to do and nobody wants to pay money when you don't know where your money's going to," says Michelle Salard.

It's money they say they don't mind spending, if they can enjoy what they're paying for.

"We would just like to be able to go back in and enjoy the facilities that we bought it for and just get it all resolved," says Salard.

To the property owners here, they say this feels like a never ending battle and with summer just around the corner, they worry their riverfront property will be vacant and they'll still be out the cost.

The E.P.A. gave Riverbend Park owners 60 days to comply with the standards, then they said they would re-evaluate the property and decide if they could open. But the Property Owner's Association says, that 60 days still hasn't begun because the owner's attroney wouldn't sign the court order.