Blackwater task force slated

Published 7:34 pm Tuesday, July 31, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation Director David Smith has been put in charge of assembling a task force to address the use of the Blackwater property.

The Board of Supervisors recently rejected an offer by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to manage the property for public hunting and other recreational uses.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice, who proposed the task force, wants to include no more than 12 individuals cut from a wide swath of the community. 

Grice thinks hunt clubs should be included, as well as equestrians, canoeists, kayakers, mountain bikers and more. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Two hunt clubs have held leases to use the property over the past few years. When those expired, the county considered the DGIF’s offer, but ultimately took a pass. 

For the upcoming hunting season, the Board is asking local hunt clubs to apply, but they must meet already established criteria, such as 51 percent of members being Isle of Wight County residents. 

The task force, which has yet to be assembled, has a deadline of next March to bring a proposal to the Board. 

In 2011, county staff developed a master plan for the Blackwater property, which included recreational activities, but that has laid dormant since that time. 

The roughly 2,500-acre Blackwater property is publicly owned and was purchased by Isle of Wight in 2010. 

Grice is concerned that the property will become a possible financial drain, such as IsleJam, a single season concert series that ended up losing more than $100,000 in county funds. The idea for that was to get more use out of Heritage Park. 

This is the second task force proposed by Grice. 

His first, the water and sewer task force, met for about a year and recommended that the county and two towns form a joint water authority. This year, the county and the Town of Smithfield have agreed to a water purchase swap of sorts to service certain areas of the town and Gatling Pointe. The county has long purchased water from the town to service Gatling Pointe and this recent arrangement is seen as a way to mitigate those costs. 

Grice said that those who want to serve on the Blackwater task force should contact Smith. His email is {/mprestriction}