Wal-Mart and Battlefields

My wife sent me this today from Preservation Nation.

As we’ve reported, Wal-Mart wants to build 240,000 square feet of big-box development within the boundaries of Wilderness Battlefield and just across the road from the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in Orange County, Virginia.

We’re very grateful that Virginia’s Governor Tim Kaine believes Wilderness Battlefield is “supremely important” and that he has “strongly encouraged” Wal-Mart to find an alternative site away from the battlefield and National Park. Why isn’t Wal-Mart listening?

Wal-Mart’s project would irrevocably harm the battlefield, undermine the visitor’s experience of the National Park, and open the door for more incompatible large-scale development at this vulnerable site. That’s why preservationists have asked Wal-Mart to relocate the planned development to another site in Orange County away from the battlefield and National Park.

Unfortunately, the local Board of Supervisors is likely to approve Wal-Mart’s proposal in late July 2009. However, it is in Wal-Mart’s power to change their plans and relocate the planned development.   Click here to send an email to ask Wal-Mart’s CEO Michael T. Duke to protect Wilderness Battlefield.

Wal-Mart plans to build on a highly significant Civil War battlefield.

MYTH – “’We recognize the significance of the Wilderness Battlefield, but we are not building on the battlefield,’ said Keith Morris, a spokesman for the world’s largest retailer.” Associated Press, January 2, 2009.

FACT – “The proposed Wal-Mart development site is located entirely within the boundaries of the Chancellorsville and Wilderness Battlefields.” Kathleen Kilpatrick, Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer, June 8, 2009.

Wal-Mart’s development would be plainly visible from the National Park.

MYTH – “’We’ve gone to great lengths to try to work with residents, county planners, state officials to come up with a very unique design that fits within the unique character of Orange County Wilderness. And we’ve built the store to be furthest back from the site as possible. You won’t be able to see it from any of the battlefield park,’ said Keith Morris, Wal-Mart’s public affairs director.” abcnews.com, May 24, 2009.

FACT — “It has been claimed that the proposed development will not be visible from within the boundaries of the Park, particularly from Ellwood Manor. This is untrue. The Park extends all the way to the Route 3 and 20 intersection. The development will be obviously visible from there.” Russ Smith, Superintendent of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, May 20, 2009.

Wal-Mart has been offered alternative sites for its big-box development in Orange County but away from the battlefield and National Park.

FACT – “’I asked a real estate agent to talk to Wal-Mart,’ Azimipour said recently. ‘He told me that Wal-Mart was only interested in the property they had and if it didn’t work out, they were out of Orange.’” Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, June 10, 2009, quoting Mansour Azimipour, president, A&K Development.

FACT – “Orange County builder John Marcantoni has put an offer on the table that he wants the county and Wal-Mart to consider. He recently contacted both parties to invite Wal-Mart to locate on 75 acres along State Route 3 west of Lake of the Woods. … Marcantoni said yesterday that he had not received a reply from Orange County or Wal-Mart.” Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, June 26, 2009.

FACT – “At least four major Route 3 landowners, including the Kings, have approached Wal-Mart with other sites for its store.” Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, July 10, 2009.

FACT — Wal-Mart is fixed on its current proposed site: “‘It’s the only site we’ve identified that we’ll move forward with,’ said Keith Morris, a spokesman for the company.” Richmond Times Dispatch, July 13, 2009.

UGLY TRUTH – On July 3, 2009, the Board of Supervisors abruptly fired Bill Rolfe, Orange County Administrator, “after the supervisors expressed their displeasure at an e-mail he had sent them on June 15, suggesting there was a better location for the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter than on land near the Wilderness Battlefield. … In his e-mail, Rolfe told supervisors that it would be in the best interests of the county for them to ‘broker a deal that keeps Wal-Mart in the County and moves it away from the congressionally-approved boundary line of the Wilderness Battlefield.’” Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, July 4, 2009.

Click here to tell Wal-Mart you know the truth and to ask them to protect Wilderness Battlefield.

Rob Nieweg is the Director of the Southern Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

I’m not a preservation person, that’s my wife’s department, but seriously, must the Wal-Mart go in that particular location.  It seems to me that this is very disrespectful of our nations history and national parks.  Really, when I go to a national park, the one thing I don’t want to see is a Wal-Mart.

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