What’s at Risk?
Wilderness Battlefield is one of the nation’s most important Civil War battlefields. It is designated as a Priority 1, Class A battlefield by Congress’ blue-ribbon Civil War Sites Advisory Commission.
However, construction of Wal-Mart’s massive Superstore would irrevocably harm the battlefield and degrade the visitor’s experience of the National Park. It also would open the flood gates for large-scale commercial development of this highly significant historic landscape. And yet, Wal-Mart decision makers stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that Wilderness Battlefield matters to the American people.
To raise the alarm, the Vermont Legislature recently passed a joint resolution asking property owners and elected officials in Orange County, Virginia, to protect the historic battlefield. On February 19th, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star published an editorial in response to the Vermont Legislature’s resolution which concludes:
“No one dismisses Orange County’s need for revenue or Wal-Mart’s right to grow. But must the store occupy historic ground? As the Vermont resolution says, ‘The story of the Battle of the Wilderness is one of valor for both armies that fought there.’ Now, will commerce recognize that and take a second seat? Battlefields can’t be moved. Big boxes can.”
Here is an update on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s advocacy to save Wilderness Battlefield:
- The National Trust is communicating directly with Wal-Mart corporate executives to ask Wal-Mart to relocate its planned Superstore. The National Trust and the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition also are talking to adjacent landowners who are preparing to intensively develop their property.
- The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition and National Trust have offered to pay for a land-use planning study that would balance preservation of this irreplaceable historic site with sustainable economic development. We hope that the Orange County Board of Supervisors will accept our offer of technical assistance.
- The National Trust and the Coalition are mobilizing concerned Americans to help preserve Wilderness Battlefield, including 800 members of the National Trust who live in Orange County, Virginia.
But Time is Running Out.
The Orange County Planning Board is likely to hold a public hearing in March or April, 2009 to evaluate Wal-Mart’s project. Then, the Orange County Board of Supervisors may vote on the Superstore in May or June, 2009.
More than 5,000 members and friends of the National Trust for Historic Preservation have taken action to save the historic Civil War battlefield.
Please sign the National Trust’s petition to protect historic Wilderness Battlefield.
– Robert Nieweg
Robert Nieweg is the Director of the Southern Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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