Newton County business leaders were invited to meet David Hare and Michael Bigelow, executive team members of Heritage USA, Inc., prior to the Jasper City Council meeting last February. The two men were in the area working on projects on the property and they gave the public an idea of what they are planning for the properties being acquired including what was formerly known as Dogpatch USA.
Late in 2017, Hare announced in a video broadcast via the Internet that the company had acquired a “historic theme park property in the U.S., a hotel, RV park and theatre.”
Hare said he was president and CEO of Heritage USA, and Bigelow was vice president of operations and a founding partner at Heritage USA, Inc. and Heritage USA Ozarks Resort, Inc.
The men were enthusiastically welcomed by a full meeting room of local people who were invited to City Hall for the purpose of making introductions.
Hare said his interest in Newton County is his desire to return to a rural environment. Growing up in Irvine, California, he said, he saw the countryside consumed by development. He said he formed the corporation made up of investors and developed a business model based on the Disney environment he was exposed to earlier in his business career.
Dogpatch is important to Arkansas, Hare said. The company wants to create "a little Disney World experience" here.
Hare said that marketing the 1960s era Dogpatch theme today would be unsuccessful. But Dogpatch itself is an important part of the area's history and that is why it has been incorporated into the resort's name. "It maintains that history."
Hare, Bigelow and others from the company set up an office at the hotel at the Hub which is also part of the property acquisitions for the project.
The company entered into a lease agreement with owners of the Hub and the former amusement park, but apparently they never received payments.
Debra Nielson eventually filed suit against Heritage USA Ozarks Resort, Inc., and Hare individually, to see Heritage evicted from the buildings and property on the hill above the old theme park.
The unlawful detainer suit included the terms of the lease agreement.
The lease agreement executed in February said Heritage agreed to pay $5,500 a month to lease the former Hub Motel, former Hub Convention Center, former Neutral Zone restaurant, the former skating rink and a retail building consisting of about 3,520 square feet.
The lawsuit said Heritage failed to make any payments and that Hare “has continued to unlawfully occupy the real estate and the remaining principals of Heritage USA Ozarks Resort, Inc. have vacated the premises.”
In response to a 10-day eviction notice in July, Heritage claimed the eviction notice was a breach of the lease agreement. The company said that a dispute between the parties that can’t be resolved must go to mediation. If the dispute can’t be mediated within 90 days, the proper venue would be Pulaski County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit, filed in Newton County Circuit Court, said mediation is pointless because Heritage hasn’t made any payments on the lease.
In addition, an emergency exists because liability and casualty insurance on the property has been canceled for non-payment, as have water and electric service, the suit said. It also alleges an inspection showed “significant damage to the premises.”
The suit asked the court to schedule an immediate hearing on the matter and the County Clerk’s Office to issue a writ of possession to allow Nielson to take possession of the property, with the help of the Sheriff’s Office if necessary.
In a court filing last Sept. 7, Nielson's attorney said Hare had been seen at the address' premises and a process server was contacted to serve the legal papers. But a Return of No Service was filed as the whereabouts of Hare is unknown.
According to the attorney, all resources available to him in an attempt to locate the defendant were exhausted.