Hunt clubs competing for use of Blackwater property

Published 5:57 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Three hunt clubs continue to compete for use of the Blackwater property this fall — this time by submitting unsolicited proposals. 

The proposals came after Isle of Wight County cancelled the formal Request for Proposals due to what it described as a “breach” in the process.

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The hunt clubs had found out what each other had bid to use the property and shared that information with The Smithfield Times, which published it in the newspaper. Although the hunt clubs had found the bid amounts from information the county had posted on its own website, county officials declared the secrecy “breached because the newspaper later published the proposals.

Now the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors plan to release an invitation to bid, which differs from an RFP. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

With an IFB, the county can tell the hunt clubs how the property is to be maintained, and the clubs, in turn, offer how much they will pay to use the land to hunt while adhering to the maintenance requirements. 

The club that puts in the highest bid gets the project, rather than the other way around with an RFP, according to county attorney Bobby Jones.  

The bids will be sent to the county sealed until a formal bid opening. 

The publicly-owned Blackwater property is roughly 2,500 acres, located on the far western side of Isle of Wight County. Isle of Wight County bought the property in 2010 for $3 million — with half of that coming from grants. 

The county will eventually open the property to the public for a variety of activities, while also allowing hunt clubs to use it during specified times. 

For years, the Isle of Wight and Mill Swamp Hunt Clubs have leased the property for hunting, and at the same time, have maintained the paths and gates. 

The third hunt club, Bacon’s Castle, is based in Surry County. It had competed against Mill Swamp to lease the larger parcel and Bacon’s Castle’s bid was three times that of Mill Swamp.

Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation Director David Smith said his department can provide maintenance until the IFB process is complete. 

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree was concerned that the perception is that the county was trying to do what it said it wouldn’t — exclude others — and supports pursuing an IFB. 

When the Blackwater property was initially leased to hunt clubs, the county required that at least 51 percent of its members be Isle of Wight residents. Former county attorney Mark Popovich later advised the Board against imposing that requirement going forward with opening the property to the public.  

The IFB will be ready for Board authorization at its Sept. 19 meeting, said Jones.  {/mprestriction}