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Preservationists Say Wal-Mart Battle Not Over

The Orange County Board of Supervisors in Virginia voted 4-1 early this morning to approve a special use permit that will allow Wal-Mart to build a super center close to the National Park Service's Wilderness Battlefield. In a statement released today, the Civil War Preservation Trust said the vote was a "setback for preservationists" but added, "this battle is not over yet."

Trust president Jim Lighthizer called on Wal-Mart to reconsider its decision to build within the footprint of the Wilderness Battlefield, near Fredericksburg, pointing to what he called, "nationwide anger generated by its proposal."

"The ball is now in Wal-mart's court," he said. "It's in the corporation's best interest to work with the preservation community to find an alternative site. ...We are optimistic that company officials will see the wisdom of moving somewhere else."

That doesn't sound likely, according to Wal-Mart regional spokesman Keith Morris. In an interview he said, "Two years ago, the county decided this site was one where growth should occur. We have looked at alternative sites and there are other sites but they require rezoning. There is no guarantee the county would approve another site."

Morris pointed to the county planning commission's second and little-noticed Aug. 20 4-3 vote that reversed a decision of the night before, when that commission deadlocked on the issue. A deadlock is considered a negative vote. Morris said that second vote was an indication of the county's strong interest in seeing the store built at the proposed site.

There is a possibility that the Trust, as the lead organization of the Wilderness Coalition, will turn to the courts and appeal the board's decision. Officials are debating their next step now.

By Linda Wheeler  |  August 25, 2009; 12:01 PM ET
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Why are people so against Walmart...we can't live in the past in reference to the mom and pop stores...sure they were nice growing up but times have changed...

I posted a few days ago on this subject citing a Post article 2 weeks ago about how sprawl continued after Disney was rebuffed in the area...

Sprawl has come and will continue in the Battlefield area with our without Walmart.
Traffic will continue to be a problem with or without Walmart as most in that area well know...

It is a convenience store not an inconvenience store, whether you shop there or not....

Posted by: pentagon40 | August 25, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I feel that Wal Mart should find an alternative location. Just as they have fought for this location, they should fight for the rezoning of the other location that was mentioned.

Posted by: mjackson1 | August 25, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

There are many many Civil War and Revolutionary War sites of historical significance in Va. We need a strategic approach in the state to the question of what should and can be preserved for history and where we should allow economic and social forces to change the landscape. Why not have a strong, volunteer commission composed of interested parties who individually have a sense of the importance of both the past and the future develop a state-wide set of recommendations setting priorities for historical preservation? If honest and disinterested, these recommendations would provide real moral weight to decisions that have to made everywhere in the state.

Posted by: msarles | August 25, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Walmart means jobs in the middle of a very bad recession. There will be jobs for building the plant, and jobs for operating it. What does the Civil War Preservation Trust offer in the place of these jobs? There is a compromise. Either the Trust can come up with equivalent jobs and employment, or it can find another site of equal space and location to the Interstate where Walmart can locate. Preserving every Civil War camp site is ludicrous, especially in Virginia, given all the fighting that happened here.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | August 25, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

If you've seen one battlefied you've seen them all.

Preservationists aren't really preserving anything but their roles as media preservationists. Ken Burns proudced a great documentary but that was 20 years ago, and frankly everything PBS just sounds elitist during a difficult recession.

There'll be many jobs building the Super Center and many jobs inside the Super Center once its built.

Posted by: blasmaic | August 25, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

There are more than enough WalMarts. As soon as WM is built, Target will be 3 blocks away, followed by Home Depot, Lowes ... Allowing WM in first is like opening Pandora's Box. Be careful what you wish for ...

Posted by: ms1234 | August 25, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

fr edwardallen54:

>Walmart means jobs in the middle of a very bad recession......Either the Trust can come up with equivalent jobs and employment, or it can find another site of equal space and location to the Interstate where Walmart can locate. Preserving every Civil War camp site is ludicrous, especially in Virginia, given all the fighting that happened here.<

Fine. Next time YOUR kid asks YOU about Stonewall Jackson, the Wilderness, Chancellorsville, etc., just take them to YOUR favorite wally world or sammie's junk club. I'm just sure they'll be SO proud to show you an F in US History, just because YOU wanted third world garbage sold in YOUR area.

Oh, and fyi, the CWPT is a well-thought-of organization that works very hard to preserve ALL battlefields of the Civil War. I should know. I belong to and support them, along with people like Ed Bearss and David McCullogh.

Posted by: Alex511 | August 25, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Hang in there CWPT. Eventually they will spread enough cash around for the politicians that they will get their way.
If memory serves me over 18,000 Federal troops died at the Wilderness along with 11,000 Confederates. They can find another location for their store and their "jobs" that pay so much their workforce qualifies for Medicaid.

A battlefield from 1864 can be found on any corner, but a Walmart...those are scarce as moon dust.

Posted by: menopausequeen | August 25, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

What do people have against WalMart??? Where can I begin?? I haven't given WalMart a dime since 1996 and have never missed it. I don't need 99% of what they're selling and what I do need I can find at my locally owned grocery store, farmers markets, local hardware store, pharmacy, and the rare trip to the slightly less repellant Target.

As for the comparison to Disney & Haymarket. I marched against the Disney theme park in 1994 and would do it again. But I'm sickened by what's happened to Haymarket. However, to suggest that therefore the opposition to Disney was misguided is to miss the point. Communities shouldn't have to choose between bad and worse, and developers shouldn't be the ones presenting the options (and having control of communities' destinies.) To say that wasteful, traffic-worsening development is inevitable is passive and complacent to the point of nihilism.

We CAN do things differently--"we" meaning citizens, communities, and our appointed and elected leaders--so that we are not always responding to crises and realizing something is about to be destroyed when it's too late.

Visit The Green Infrastructure Center at for an approach to planning that takes stock of natural and cultural treasures so that communities don't destroy their most valuable assets with haphazard, reactive decisions.

Posted by: Kestrel1 | August 25, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

It is NOT on the battlefield...and if you don't live in Orange County your opinion does not matter. The county needs the jobs and tax revenue. If it wasn't Wal-Mart, it would be other businesses building there- on the COMMERCIALLY ZONED LAND. Obviously the land meant nothing until Wal-mart said they were coming in- should have been purchased years ago if someone wanted to preserve it.

Posted by: robinson6 | August 26, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

actually, whether we live in the county or not our opinion DOES matter. Walmart has several other local options on which to build which would be well within the range needed for jobs and or tax revenue.

also, my well researched friends, the land is outside the PARK but within the BATTLEFIELD. Lines of battle criss-crossed the very spot where the store is to be built. Park Service boundaries very rarely encompass the entirety of a battlefield because of the difficulty in acquiring private land. The very largest battlefiled at Gettysburg still requires preservation and land purchase as land becomes available.

Yes..."seen one battlefield seen them all". just a bunch of fields. i would not presume to argue the burning power of your logic but, earlier this year at Franklin, a drainage ditch project unearthed a soldiers grave where none was thought to be. That American soldier is being reburied with honors at a local military cemetary. The Wilderness was unlike any other battlefield but, I presume you know that since you seem to have done extensive homework to reach your conclusion. We THINK we know exactly where the fighting took place and where buriels occured but the history of other battles has shown us that we are likely wrong. Harpers Ferry?...a unethical builder under cover of darkness started digging a ditch where "nothing happened" result...artifacts. A gopher hole at Antietam?...human remains. A rainstorm at Gettysburg in 1998?...bones washing out of a railroad hillside. The Wilderness more than any other major battle that i can think of was total chaos. units lost, fires burning the woods as well as the wounded, isolated pockets of action.

When they start digging...we will be watching and hoping they dont defile the resting places of those who "shouldn't be there".

The dead don't follow zoning laws.

Posted by: absk | August 26, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

How close is this to the park exactly?

Posted by: Blowback1964 | August 26, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Blowback 1964:

The land that Walmark wishes to use sits on the Germanna Hwy (rt 3) near the intersection with the Orange Turnpike. The boundary of the National Park portion of the battlefield is "across the street" from the Walmart site (the street being Rt 3). The Orange Turnpike was a major axis of action during the battle as at different time the Union and Confederate forces attacked and counter attacked using the Orange 'Pike as the axis. At one point, the right flank of Warren's Union Corps rested on the Germanny Highway exactly where the Walmart is to be built. Some interpretations have that right flank extending across the Germanna Highway into the Walmart Land. In addition to the Walmart site, there is another sliver of unpreserved land embedded within the Park Service Boundary across the street from the Walmart. This site of additional potential development was the deployment line for a large portion of Warren's Corps.

In Gettysburg many years ago it was OK's to build a Ford Dealership on the Emmitsburg Road on land that was crossed by Pickett's assault. Now that dealership , at some level of cost, has been removed from a site where it never should have been.

I just worry that because the land is "zoned" that a mistake will be made that will be regretted later on when there are alternatives.

Posted by: absk | August 27, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

The Wilderness battlefield will always generate money from the tourists who visit not just the battlefield, but the surrounding area. It is a guaranteed source of revenue for eternity. There are millions of people with an interest in history, and hundreds of thousands Civil War buffs from all over the world. They travel and spend dollars to visit these battlefields. For a local government to not realize the revenue that a battlefield can generate is beyond me.

I am a Canadian and have visited the U.S. twice to visit battlefields, and I plan on making many more trips in the future, and while there I will be spending money.

To think that a Wal-Mart will somehow bring economic salvation is very short-sighted. Is that the only way of the future? To build big box developments and languish in urban sprawl?

But aside from that, a battlefield is fixed and can never be moved. We as a society can choose where to build, and that means if the Wal-Mart must be built, then it can be moved a few miles from the edge of the park to not endanger the integrity of the battlefield.

Posted by: uhligkev | August 27, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: davaykyrnem | August 28, 2009 5:05 AM | Report abuse

robinson 6: That battlefield is one of National importance and National heritage. How arrogant to state that no one other than Orange residents have a right to care. No one said you couldn't have your sacred walmart, we just don't want it in that spot. A compromise could have easily been reached.
I find it amusing, although sad too, that I hear people defending walmart's "property rights". These arguments are coming from people who live in subdivisions where they are told what type of fence to build, what color siding they can use and so on.
Given the number of people who have spoken out about this, including the governor, the speaker and Federal politicians, is it not apparent to anyone that this place matters to a lot of folks? What kind of story can you make up to suggest preservationists have an "agenda"? The agenda is saving history. What else do we have to gain?

Posted by: Rickard0508 | August 29, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse

This is a no brainer. Remember Til Hazel threatening to build a mall next to the Manassas Battle Park in the the 80's? People got upset and congress appropriated money so the Park Service could by the land. Til got a premium price for the land and built a big strip mall in the Fair Lakes area.

Now Wal-Mart is doing the same thing and will probably get away with it. There are lots of other areas in Orange County where Wal-Mart could build but just like Til Hazel they want to be paid off. Open your eyes and see it for what it really is, extortion.

Posted by: hodgensrn | August 29, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I've been to well-preserved battlefields like Antietam. I've been to ones that have real strengths and real weaknesses, like Gettysburg. I've been to ones that are poorly preserved and truly threatened, like Kennesaw Mountain (outside Atlanta). The battlefields in the Fredricksburg area have some real problems, and only damage will be done by the new Wal-Mart. Once you've lost the feel of a battlefield, it can rarely be reacquired, and on those rare occasions that it can, it costs big, big bucks to do so.

Posted by: huguenotklj | September 1, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

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