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Posted at 9:58 AM ET, 08/ 6/2009

If Not Wal-Mart... ?

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Joseph W. McKinney
Brandy Station

The controversy over the “Wilderness Wal-Mart” proposed in Virginia’s Orange County reminds me of the time in the 1990s when the Walt Disney Co. proposed building a theme park in western Prince William County.

The site that Disney selected was not historically significant, but it was only a few miles from the Manassas National Battlefield Park. Preservationists, concerned that increased traffic and sprawl would degrade the experience of visitors to the battlefield, rose in opposition.

After intense lobbying and public relations campaigns waged by both sides, Disney canceled its plans.

Today, instead of Disney’s theme park, residential developments line Route 15 from Haymarket to the Loudoun County line. Along Route 55, Gainesville and Haymarket have essentially merged, joined together by retail establishments and housing. Instead of tourists, the roads — including those running through the Manassas battlefield — are choked with commuters.

The drive along the base of the Bull Run Mountains used to be pleasurable. Now it is stultifying. I support battlefield preservation, and I even wrote a book about the Battle of Brandy Station, but sometimes, as I sit in traffic on the way to Leesburg, I think we might have been better off with the theme park instead of the houses.

That leads me to wonder: If Wal-Mart is not acceptable near the Wilderness battlefield, what is? Is a strip mall better than a Wal-Mart? What about 500 single-family dwellings? The people of Orange County deserve an answer to these questions as the review of Wal-Mart’s proposal proceeds.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | August 6, 2009; 9:58 AM ET
 
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Comments

Good article. Of course the people whining about it will whine about any change. Remember the whiners in Alexandria who did not want a new Redskin stadium in the old railyards? Traffic congrestion, noise, etc. Now they have a large strip mall. It may include a WalMart. Lose a stadium, gain some "big boxes". Smart?

Posted by: SimmertimeDC | August 11, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

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