The Wilderness Wal-Mart

Myth vs. Reality

Myth #1:
The Walmart would not be built on, or near, the Wilderness Battlefield.

Walmart would be built inside the historic boundary of the Wilderness Battlefield as determined in the 1993 report of the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (CWSAC), a congressionally authorized study of every battlefield of the Civil War.  The historic nature of the property has since been reconfirmed by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the National Park Service (NPS).  The proposed Walmart site is within a few hundred feet of trenches owned by the NPS as part of the Wilderness Battlefield unit of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park and within sight of park land at the Route 3 & 20 intersection.

Myth #2:
Nobody objected when the McDonald’s and Sheetz were built at that intersection.

The NPS and others pointed out to Orange County the inappropriateness of rezoning at the corner of Routes 3 and 20.  After the rezoning, NPS and others tried to work with the businesses on toned down stores.  McDonald’s was receptive and made some design modifications to have less of an impact on the battlefield (i.e., no towering sign) and designed the interior with a Wilderness Battlefield theme.  Sheetz, however, was uncooperative and built according to standard design more appropriate to a highway rest stop than a historic battlefield shrine.

Myth #3:
A planning study offered by the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition is only a delaying tactic

The preservation community is committed to a visioning process that would preserve the Wilderness Battlefield gateway while still enabling Orange County to achieve its economic development goals in the region.  The best way to achieve this compromise is to undergo a comprehensive, long-range planning process to determine how best to achieve these goals.  The alternative is succumbing to the same piecemeal sprawl that litters Route 3 east of Orange County.  The Coalition has offered to pay for the entire study so it would come at no cost to the county.  In fact, Orange County’s Comprehensive Plan calls for “developing a comprehensive battlefield resource protection plan for civil war sites,” but so far the county has failed to pursue creating such a plan.
Myth #4:
The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition is anti-Walmart.

The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition is opposed to any large-scale development at the site currently proposed by Walmart.  The Coalition would be equally opposed to any big-box development at that location.  The opposition has nothing to do with the Walmart Corporation – only with where they want to build a store.  The Coalition has repeatedly stated that it has no problem with a Walmart in Orange County if it does not harm the Wilderness Battlefield.

Myth #5:
Nobody visits the Wilderness Battlefield National Park.

According to county statistics, the Wilderness Battlefield is the most visited tourist attraction in Orange County.  The Wilderness Battlefield received more than 100,000 visitors in 2008.  With the opening of a restored Ellwood as the new visitor center for the battlefield, visitation will only increase.  It not only makes sense to protect the battlefield from a historic standpoint, but it clearly makes good economic sense as well.  The battlefield is a national treasure and needs to be protected for future generations to visit and enjoy.

Myth #6:
There is already commercial development there, so Walmart doesn’t matter.

While there is some existing small-scale development at the intersection, it’s the scale of the proposed development that will completely alter the character of the land.  The current proposal is for a Walmart Supercenter AND three additional smaller box stores located on a ridge that would be visible from the battlefield (current development is in a “bowl” difficult to see from most locations in the National Park).  This new development would quadruple the existing development, and will certainly attract additional development beyond the current proposal as well.  Further, the Walmart and additional baby box stores would be the first thing that visitors to Orange County see driving Route 3 west from Fredericksburg.

Myth #7:
There are no other sites available for Walmart.

There are multiple landowners on Route 3 who have expressed a willingness to sell to Walmart, at least two of which own commercially zoned land.  The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition has repeatedly stated that it would support Walmart at a different site in Orange County, and in instances where alternative sites are not zoned commercial would be prepared to support a rezoning.  As noted above, the preservation coalition has offered to fund a planning study that would help identify how to balance economic growth and historic preservation at the gateway to Orange County and the National Park.


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