River Property Woes

REGION 8 -- You may remember Riverbend Park near Hardy. It flooded last September and it's fair to say that since then, it's been in hot water. Many of the property owners have discovered that the park is now being closed and they may be losing their river getaways. Now, it sounds like this is affecting people on the other side of the river.

The owner of Riverbend is Wayne Watkins, who also owns at least 2 other R.V. parks along the river. Many of the property owners are beginning to reveal the truth behind years and years of payments towards a river getaway they thought was theirs. Turns out all along, it never was and may never be.

A campground along the Spring River is where the Hovis family goes to getaway. It's their second home and with 3 kids, it's something they say was well worth the money they've been paying for the land since 2003.

"We were just tickled to death to be able to buy that land and we thought everything was in perfect order until just recently we discovered that our property was going to be going up for auction," says Shannon Hovis.

When they purchased their property, everything was done with in-house financing from the Spring River Beach Club, which is owned by Wayne Watkins. For 4 years now, they've made their payments to his company, thinking it was going towards the balance. When they logged onto the State Land Commissioner's website, it showed the land is legally owned by Watkins.

"It said that the owner was Wayne Watkins and that he hadn't paid property taxes since 2001 or 2 and we were just blown away because we expected that land to be ours. We assumed that land was ours," says Hovis.

An assumption that may cost them a lot of wasted money, since it basically boils down to paying rent. Shannon and her husband Eugene both signed agreeing to abide by a real estate contract, but it wasn't until recently when all this mess began to surface that they realized the real estate contract they signed was incomplete.

"Where the description of the property should be located, there was nothing written. So, in essence, we agreed to buy something that was not listed. So, we are making payments towards something but we don't know what it is," says Hovis.

Another fact they've uncovered in their research. The property they thought was theirs is about to go up for auction through the State Land Commissioner on August 1st for failure to pay years of property taxes.

"If we were to stop making payments on this, then we could be possibly held at fault and we don't want that, but then again we don't want to continue to make payments to something that's not ours, so it's really a struggle to decide how to proceed and I'm sure it's going to take an attorney to get this mess straightened out," says Hovis.

And to make matters worse, the campers from Sycamore Park used Riverbend Park for bathrooms, the pool, and all other amenities paid for by their campground dues since Sycamore was not yet completely developed.  But with Riverbend now closed by the E.P.A....

"We have nothing. No recreation that we were promised. Nothing as far as the package deal we were told we were going to get back in 2003," says Hovis.

With summer just about to begin, the Hovis family is usually getting everything ready for their vacation home. Instead, now they are sorting through confusion of whether or not their property will even exist as they know it.

"It's just a terrible situation and it's sad that someone would scam people like that. Its families out there wanting to enjoy time with their kids and spend time on the river and that was like our getaway," adds Hovis.