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2008-11-02
Orange County, VA. Wal-Mart Provokes Another Civil War Bloodbath

More often than necessary, Wal-Mart collides with history. One hundred and fifty four years after one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, Wal-Mart has provoked another battle to erupt near the site of the infamous Battle of the Wilderness in Orange County, Virginia. Back in the mid 1990s, Sprawl-Busters traveled to Fredericksburg, Virginia to help residents fight off a proposed Wal-Mart on the site of Ferry Farm, George Washington's boyhood home. Preservationists won the battle for Ferry Farm, and Wal-Mart took flak from the national coverage of its attempt to build on the historic parcel. Augustine Washington moved his family to the Ferry Farm property in 1738, when his son, George, was six years old. George received his formal education during his years there, and forged friendships in the neighborhood that lasted the rest of his life. Fortunately, his boyhood home never became a Wal-Mart, but the giant retailer is back again in Virginia, upsetting people once more with its historically-insensitive land deal. The Battle of the Wilderness was fought in 1864. It is remembered as one of the most significant battles of the Civil War -- the first clash between Generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Over a two day period, bloody fighting raged along the Orange Turnpike (now Route 20) and the Orange Plank Road. An estimated 160,000 troops fought at the Wilderness. The Confederate Army and the Union suffered heavy losses. Before the end of the confrontation, as many as 29,000 soldiers had been killed, wounded or captured. According to the Friends of the Wilderness, the battle was a tactical draw. But the Battle of the Wilderness marked the beginning of the end of the American Civil War. Today, with Wal-Mart amassing its public relations troops on Orange County, local residents will not accept a "tactical draw," and have organized to push Wal-Mart out of The Wilderness. The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT)has taken the lead in the pushback. "Do you believe a Wal-Mart Supercenter belongs within sight of both the Wilderness and Chancellorsville battlefields?" asks Jim Lighthizer, President of CWPT. "Do you want to see the historical significance of both of these irreplaceable battlefields marred forever by more pavement, more traffic and more development that a Wal-Mart Supercenter will bring in its wake? And do you want to see this land -- within easy artillery range of Ulysses Grant's headquarters during the battle of the Wilderness -- turned into just another highway strip of big box stores, fast food joints and convenience stores?" The group charges that The Wilderness Battlefield is no place for a Wal-Mart Supercenter. "Wal-Mart is right now planning to build an enormous 141,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter," Lighthizer writes, "near the intersection of Routes 3 and 20, literally across the road from the existing Wilderness Battlefield, and not far from where Stonewall Jackson launched his flank attack... building a Wal-Mart Supercenter on this site will lead to so much more traffic, sprawl and destructive development that you and I have no choice but to try to stop it." The CWPT says its not just an anti-growth group. "Let me remind you that the Civil War Preservation Trust is NOT a knee-jerk, anti-development group; we do not assume that all developers are bad people, and we do not oppose responsible economic growth...We appreciate the need for good jobs, and support well-planned economic expansion, effective land-use policies and increasing opportunities for communities through heritage tourism. However, this 'Wilderness Wal-Mart' scheme is the wrong idea in the wrong place at the wrong time. And with your help today, CWPT can stay 'in the field,' leading the charge with other national preservation groups who join us in opposing this 'Wilderness Wal-Mart.'"

What you can do: By now, there is almost nowhere in America that needs another Wal-Mart, and Orange County, Virginia is no exception. There are already four Wal-Marts within 20-miles of The Wilderness. CWPT says Wal-Mart should pick sites that do not "harm hallowed ground where Americans laid down their lives." The group notes that "despite the struggling economy, some developers and companies have deep enough pockets to keep chugging right along, and they always seem to cast their insidious glances at the scenic, historic land on or around America's Civil War battlefields." CWPT considers The Wilderness to be a "national shrine . . . a monument to American valor, determination and courage, and one of the places where the Civil War -- and the nation -- changed forever." Not exactly where Wal-Mart needs to sell more cheap underwear and MP3 players. Today nearly 2,800 acres of the Wilderness Battlefield are preserved as part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. "If Wal-Mart gets its way, however, their new Supercenter would be built within a scant one-quarter mile of the National Park," Lighthizer warns, "and would pave the way for desecration of the Wilderness with uncontrolled growth." A 'Wilderness Wal-Mart,' the CWPT says, would add thousands of extra cars through and around the national park -- and lead to "an explosion of sprawl that could engulf the existing battlefield. This type of development will be a magnet for more big-box and 'baby-box' stores, fast food restaurants, strip malls . . . and before long, I'll bet we will have to contend with demands to widen Route 3 which runs through the heart of the Chancellorsville battlefield . . . you and I have seen this type of thing happen time and time again." A 'Wilderness Wal-Mart' would wreck the unique character of the existing battlefield park and countryside, and shatter the "reverent atmosphere" that surrounds one of America's bloodiest battlefields. Readers are urged to email the Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman, R. Mark Johnson, at rmj142@yahoo.com with the following message: "Dear Chairman Johnson, I am opposed to the proposed Wal-Mart supercenter near the Wilderness Battlefield. You can't buy civil war history on any Wal-Mart shelf -- but once they take it from us -- we can't buy it back at any price. This hallowed battlefield is beyond real estate speculation. It is a priceless piece of land. The proposed store is within the historic limits of the battlefield. The Wal-Mart, which is two and a half times the size of a football field -- not counting the enormous asphalt parking lot -- will increase development pressures on the National Park. The Wal-Mart site is only one-quarter mile from the National Park. Such a large-scale development is incompatible next to a National Park. Orange County is already saturated with big box stores. There are 4 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of The Wilderness. All Americans are invested in the history contained within the fields of The Wilderness. This is more important to protect than another venue for Wal-Mart shoppers. As it says in the Orange County Comprehensive Plan, 'Orange County is also a largely rural county with a desire to control growth in order to preserve its rural qualities.' The Route 20 Corridor Study says 'These recommendations will provide additional teeth to regulations to discourage strip development and they will preserve the rural look of the corridor by requiring setbacks.' Wal-Mart is the kind of highway-oriented strip development that will destroy the rural look and character of our region. This project is incompatible with corridor preservation plans. It's up to the Board of Supervisors to protect historically sensitive areas. The Wilderness, like Ferry Farm before it, should not be compromised for a company that is already over-built in our area. I urge you: send Wal-Mart back out of the Wilderness."












 
 
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