Blackwater property eyed for public use

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, March 7, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors continues to discuss the possibility of having the state manage its 2,507-acre Blackwater property. 

Leases currently held by local hunt clubs for use of the property expire June 30.

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Whether to open up the bidding process to all hunt clubs, extend the current leases or begin the process of turning over the management of the property to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries was a topic of discussion at a March 1 work session. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Allowing the state to manage the property would open up access to the general public, such as the Big Woods property in Sussex, said Peter Acker, biologist with DGIF. 

The discussion was a continuation of a presentation made by DGIF in September 2017.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said he’s received some negative feedback about letting the general public have access, with some of that coming from neighboring property owners concerned about “freelancing” hunters.

Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie said the residents he’s talked to are in favor of allowing public access, since it is currently restricted to the leaseholders. 

The property could be used not only for hunting, but also for fishing, hiking and other activities, he said.

“There’s a lot of opportunity there,” said Rosie. 

Board Chairman Rudolph Jefferson said that if the county chooses to re-bid the exclusive hunting leases, that process should be open to all hunt clubs, and Acree agreed. 

Acker said DGIF would not lease the property from Isle of Wight, but if state management was desired, a memorandum of understanding could be drafted. 

Acker said there would be no direct cost or liability if the state took over management. 

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton said the current leases generate about $16,000 a year in revenue. 

Rosie said that if the property were open to the public, it could be developed into a desired attraction.

Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice said he was leaning toward working with the state on managing the property, as it would provide a facility at the southern end of the county. 

The Board also discussed whether hunting with dogs should be allowed, and Acker said the state could go either way.

At Big Woods, where hunting with dogs is allowed, “some of those Saturdays are a circus,” he said. 

At the September presentation, Acker told the Board that if it wanted to proceed with state management of the property, DGIF would put in parking areas, some signage, kiosks with rules and regulations, as well as advertise the site on its website.

The commitment could also include providing water access, he said. 

Isle of Wight County purchased the 2,509-acre Blackwater property in 2010 for $3 million, with $1.5 million of that funded through grants. The Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation were also involved in assisting with the negotiations.

The purchase was part of a deal between the county and the Nature Conservancy to preserve ecologically sensitive land running about 5.5 miles from Broadwater to Proctor’s Bridge Roads in northwestern Isle of Wight County. It was also purchased to protect significant drinking water resources. 

However, part of the deed agreement also allowed the previous owner, Goodwood Virginia LLC, to restrict public access to certain areas for the next four decades, or until it finishes cutting timber, if it considers the restrictions necessary.  {/mprestriction}