For Immediate Release: 08/25/09
Orange County Supervisors Approve Wal-Mart Superstore on Wilderness Battlefield
County rejects national and local voices urging protection of battleground and National Park
(Orange, Va.) - The Orange County Board of Supervisors today approved a proposal to build 240,000-square feet of big box retail on the Wilderness Battlefield. James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), issued the following statement in the wake of the vote:
“I am deeply disappointed by today’s vote. The Orange County Board of Supervisors had an opportunity to protect the battlefield by embracing a reasonable compromise approach to the Wal-Mart superstore proposal. Instead, they ignored rational voices on the national, state and local level encouraging them to work with the preservation community and local landowners to find a more suitable alternative location.
“Today’s vote is not just a setback for preservationists. Orange County residents are losers as well. If the county had embraced the preservation planning process first proposed by the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition in January, there would have been an opportunity to mitigate the transportation and development impacts of the proposal. Instead, the board voted to repeat the mistakes made by other localities, who are now struggling to address the problems created by similar piecemeal development and rampant sprawl.
“The ball is now in Wal-Mart’s court. Wal-Mart better understands the nationwide anger generated by its proposal to build on the doorstep of a National Park. It is in the corporation’s best interests to work with the preservation community to find an alternative site. After all, building a big box superstore on the Wilderness Battlefield would belie recent attempts to portray Wal-Mart as environmentally sensitive. We are optimistic that company officials will see the wisdom of moving elsewhere.
“The Civil War Preservation Trust and the other member groups of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition will now carefully weigh options for continued opposition of this misguided proposal. This battle is not over yet.”
Among those who urged Orange County to chose another location for the proposed Wal-Mart were Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.); Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) and House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell (R); actors Robert Duvall, Richard Dreyfuss and Ben Stein; and more than 250 historians, including Pulitzer prize-winning authors David McCullough and James McPherson and acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns.
Since a Wal-Mart superstore on the Wilderness Battlefield was first publicly announced in June 2008, CWPT has been one of the leading voices against the proposal. Earlier this year, the organization identified the Wilderness Battlefield as one of the most endangered battlefields in the nation because of the Wal-Mart plan. CWPT is a member of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition.