For Immediate Release: 10/27/11
Preservation Groups Comment on Pending Orange County Walmart Plans
Statement of the Civil War Trust, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to the Orange County Board of Supervisors
This week -- some nine months after announcing that the corporation was withdrawing its plan to develop a Superstore on the historic Wilderness Battlefield -- Walmart and its local development partners are seeking the Orange County Board of Supervisors’ approval for an alternate site approximately three miles farther north on Route 3 in Orange County, Virginia.
Like other members of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield and Civil War Trust strongly opposed the initial proposal, which would have destroyed an area of land that has been described by eminent historian James McPherson as the “nerve center of the Union Army” during the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness. Our organizations made it clear from the outset that we did not oppose construction of a Walmart store at another, more appropriate, location in Orange County.
Walmart has now chosen an alternative site away from the battlefield, while continuing to make clear its intention to preserve the original site by establishing a conservation easement or by donating the property to an appropriate stewardship organization or agency. As we did earlier this year, our organizations again applaud Walmart for its decision to change course, and to relocate its Superstore development in order to protect the Wilderness Battlefield –- a national historic treasure of the highest order.
Few areas in the Route 3 corridor in Orange County were untouched by the Civil War, and Walmart’s alternate site is not unique in that it also evidences some Civil War activity, including remnants of earthworks and portions of a wartime campsite. Walmart’s chosen site, however, is farther removed from significant lands related to the 1864 battle and is located closer to other commercially zoned properties and residential areas along Route 3. In addition, the alternative site’s historic integrity was compromised several years ago by the construction of a roadway, a utility right of way, and a large storm water pond. Under the circumstances –- and within the broader context of Walmart’s decision to relocate its development –- our organizations believe that this is a more suitable location for Walmart’s proposed Superstore.
At the same time, our organizations have strongly encouraged Walmart to ensure that its development plans provide generous wooded buffers and take other steps to minimize the impacts of its development on adjacent, non-commercial neighbors, and to conserve the traditional rural character of this portion of the Route 3 corridor in Orange County. We also have encouraged Walmart to fully document any cultural resources that may remain on this site, and to provide special help to preserve historic places elsewhere in Orange County if the Superstore development disturbs or destroys cultural resources.
Based on our discussions with Walmart officials, we are confident that the corporation and its development partners will be responsible in addressing these issues.
Thank you for considering the views of the Civil War Trust, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, and National Trust for Historic Preservation.