The Wilderness Wal-Mart – Not a Fait Accompli?

Stop the Wilderness Wal-MartAs reported by the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), on July 15, there is still hope that Wal-Mart may reconsider their plans to build a Wal-Mart adjacent to The Wilderness National Battlefield.(i)  Several high ranking state officials, including Governor Tim Kaine (D), and Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William Howell (R), have sent a bipartisan letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors urging the group to reconsider its recent approval of Wal-Mart’s zoning request.  

As I had reported previously, the primary obstacle to Wal-Mart’s plans was the Orange County Board of Supervisors, which recently approved Wal-Mart’s request to build adjacent to one of the most threatened Civil War battlefields in the United States (click here for to read my article).  As one of the leading groups of The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, the CWPT has been very vocal in their opposition to Wal-Mart building so close to this hallowed ground.  Jim Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust, was recently interviewed on This Mighty Scourge and stated that he was not opposed to Wal-Mart building a new Supercenter, just that they were building it so close to The Wilderness Battlefield, when other prime locations were available (click here to listen to my interview with Mr. Lighthizer).

The press release, from the Civil War Preservation Trust, is printed in its entirety, below.

For Immediate Release: 07/15/09

Governor Kaine and Speaker Howell Urge Orange County to Move WalMart Superstore Away from Battlefield


(Richmond, VA) – In a bipartisan letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) and House of Delegates Speaker William Howell (R) jointly urged the county to reconsider plans to locate a Walmart Supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield.

The letter, addressed to Orange County Board Chairman Lee Frame and dated July 13, 2009, emphasizes the Commonwealth’s commitment to historic preservation and the need to bring all interests together to resolve the controversy.

The heart of the message states, “[We] strongly encourage your Board to work closely with Wal-Mart to find an appropriate alternative site for the proposed retail center in the vicinity of the proposed site yet situated outside the boundaries of Wilderness Battlefield and out of view of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.”

Further, the Governor and Speaker offer the services of the state to help forge a compromise, writing: “[W]e stand ready to offer the technical service of any of the state agencies that could be of help to the County and Wal-Mart….”  The letter goes on to reference those agencies: the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Department of Transportation, the Virginia Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Department of Historic Resources.

The letter acknowledges that the ultimate decision to build the Wal-Mart at this location rests with the county board of supervisors.  However, the letter also notes:  “[E]very acre of battlefield land that is destroyed means a loss of open space and missed tourism opportunities, and it closes one more window for future generations to better understand our national story.”

The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, an organization of national, regional and local preservation groups, indicated support for the announcement by the Governor and Speaker, noting that the Coalition first proposed a similar solution in January of this year.  “We firmly believe that encouraging Wal-Mart to move to an alternative location is in the best interests of both the National Park and Orange County residents.  We are prepared to work with the Commonwealth, the county, Wal-Mart and local citizens to find an alternative that benefits all.”


I urge you to consider donating to the Civil War Preservation Trust’s Wal-Mart ‘08 campaign, by clicking here.  There is still a chance to save The Wilderness Battlefield.

About Michael Noirot

I grew up in the Central Illinois farming community, of Dunlap. Growing up, I played sports, tinkered with cars and enjoyed photography. While I did well in school, I did not become passionate about history until my early 30's. I have built a large library, of books on early America, politics and the Civil War. I am an avid reader. Fortunately, I have had plenty of opportunities to travel, over the years, and have been to most of the Civil War battlefields. I work while I travel, so more often than not, I am up, in the middle of the night, to get sunrise pictures, or I will be out until well after dark, exploring Civil War battlefields. I have other hobbies, and passions, that I really enjoy. Number one on the list would be guitar. I play my guitars on a regular basis, and enjoy the Bluegrass, and Contemporary Christian (CCM) genres. I play a style of guitar, called FLATPICKING, where using a flat pick, you play lead solos, similar to the way a fiddle would have been played during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Laura, my wife, and I also enjoy scuba diving, travel and spending time at our property, in the country. Lastly, we spend as much time with our families, as possible. Thanks for stopping by.
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