Blackwater Task Force makes recommendations

Published 6:53 pm Friday, April 19, 2019

Individual permits for hunting, other activities suggested for county-owned property



On March 21, Isle of Wight County’s director of parks and recreation, David Smith, presented the recommendations of the Blackwater Task Force to the county’s Board of Supervisors. The Board had formed the task force last year after rejecting a proposal by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to take over management of a county-owned parcel of land located along the Blackwater River.

The property is located off of Broadwater Road near the county’s border with Southampton County and the town of Ivor. It includes 2,507 acres of forestland, 5 miles of which is river frontage. The county acquired the property in 2010 with financial assistance from the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The county has leased the property for the past several years to local hunt clubs.

The task force has recommended that the county issue requests for proposals for leasing the northern and southern tracts of land to groups for hunting, similar to what the county has done in the past with hunt clubs. However, this new lease would only be for the seven weeks of hunting season from Oct. 1 through Jan. 31. Each hunt club would receive exclusive rights to hunt on its tract of land on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but in turn, the clubs would be required to take responsibility for maintaining the trails, roads and open/close gates for the entire year, not just during hunting season. The lease would last for one year with the option to renew for a second year, and would remove the requirement the current hunt club leases have in place mandating that at least 51 percent of the club’s membership be Isle of Wight County residents.

The task force has also recommended offering individual hunting permits for Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the Oct. 1 through Jan. 31 hunting season, and for all days of the week except Sundays during the five weeks of turkey season, which is from the second week in April to the third week in May. Hunters under age 16 would be required to be accompanied by an adult.

Sundays would be reserved for non-hunting activities, even during hunting seasons, and all other permitted activities would be allowed when group and individual hunting licenses are not in effect. These activities include fishing, biking, paddling on the Blackwater River, horseback riding, primitive camping, bird and wildlife viewing and rare plant viewing.

Individual permits would cost $35 per person for county residents and $100 per person for non-residents. According to Smith, a single permit will allow an individual to participate in all permitted activities, including hunting.

The task force has also recommended that the county spend $30,000 to relocate the property gates, construct three gravel parking areas at the gates, mark the property boundaries and place signage and informational kiosks at the parking areas. He said the priority at the moment is moving the gates, constructing the kiosks and marking the property boundaries, which will be done by using a special type of paint on the trees that will last about 10 years. The parking lots, Smith said, will likely come later.

Once this is done, the plan is for the Blackwater Property to become self-sustaining, with revenues from the leases and permits going into an account for the development and maintenance of the property, and the task force becoming an official, permanent Blackwater Advisory Board.

With the task force’s recommendations now presented, the next step, Smith said, is for the task force to have a joint work session with the Board of Supervisors, and for the Board to eventually vote on the recommendations. He is hopeful that the final vote will be scheduled shortly before June 30, which is when the current hunt club leases for the property expire.

The task force included representation from the Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad’s department chief, J. Brian Carroll. But still unresolved is the county’s plan to provide for the safety of those who use the Blackwater Property should a hunting accident or accident involving one of the other permitted activities occur. This, Smith said, would be discussed during the upcoming joint work session.

“We [the task force] had DGIF present how they do security on the properties they manage,” he said. “I think we do have a mutual aid agreement with Ivor Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad.”