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Archive for March, 2009

Below is a statement from the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT) on the Wilderness Walmart.  CVBT is a regional organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of historic battlefields in Central Virginia.  The organization has been tremendously successful over the years in preserving battlefield land and is a memeber of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition.  CVBT owns land along Route 20 in Orange County associated with the battle of the Wilderness, which means the organization is an Orange County landowner and taxpayer.

The CVBT is advocating for the long-range visioning plan proposed by the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition and offered at no cost to Orange County.  Such a study is the best way to find a solution that not only protects the Wilderness Battlefield, but also allows for commercial development in the county that can peacefully coexist with the National Park.

Please read the full text of the CVBT statement below or find it online here:

The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT) incorporated in 1996 and adopted as its mission the preservation of historic battlefield terrain.  Our motto became “dirt and grass.”  Since then, we have helped to preserve more than 800 acres of critical ground on the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.  Some of the land we own is near the Route 3 and Route 20 intersection, where Walmart has decided to build a new store.

In addition to purchasing land, our mission includes advocacy for battlefield preservation.  At the state and federal levels, advocacy is relatively impersonal.  At the local level, advocacy unfolds in a manner much more personal, and therefore can become more confrontational.  Consequently, CVBT decided early on to work with local governments rather than in opposition to them.

Over the years, we have joined in partnership with developers, preservation organizations, and local governments on several projects.  We are proud of the solutions in Spotsylvania County that have preserved selected ground while also accommodating new development.  The CVBT has done less work with the Orange County Board of Supervisors, but seeks to develop the same mutually respectful relationship.

Some good compromises have already been worked out in Orange County.  The existing relatively limited development at the Route 3/Route 20 intersection is well below the crest of a hill that shields it from Elwood, the Colonial era home that witnessed military activity during the American Revolution as well as the Civil War.  The CVBT owns the protective hill, so this wooded terrain will remain intact in this gateway to the Wilderness battlefield.

The current intersection at Routes 3/20 is also a twentieth century creation. It was established by the Virginia Department of Transportation to bypass the historic crossroads, which is now within the boundary of the National Park.  There are opportunities to make this area viable as a commercial site as well as an attractive gateway to the Wilderness battlefield.

Some have expressed a fear that commercial development in that area will bring traffic.  Traffic, however, is already coming from the hundreds of residences that have been built around and on the battlefield.  More traffic will certainly come to the region as it continues to grow, but that dynamic began long ago, when significant numbers of houses were constructed nearby.  Since the traffic is already here, and will continue to increase, it is important to plan for a long term solution rather than think it can be avoided.

The proposal to build a Walmart at the Route3/Route 20 intersection is for land already zoned for commercial purposes.  As a consequence, Walmart may not want to relinquish its plans to build there if a competitor would use that site instead.  No preservation group has stated its intent to try to acquire that ground either, so the question is not whether anything will be built, but what.  The CVBT is a part of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, which has offered to work with the County to develop a preservation-based vision for the Wilderness corner.  This approach is consistent with our mission.  We acquire terrain that we have determined must absolutely be preserved, but we also advocate for good solutions on related land that we do not have the capacity to acquire.

To this end, the CVBT takes the following position:

The land that is within the authorized National Park boundary is inviolate.  This land has been in long range plans for many years, has been authorized for acquisition by the United States Congress, and is critical to the integrity of the battlefield resource.  The CVBT is committed to working with the National Park Service to acquire the land within the authorized boundary not yet in public ownership and will oppose ANY intrusions.

The CVBT recognizes that history does not end at the authorized boundaries of the National Park.  We consider the report of the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, a blue-ribbon panel created by Congress in 1990, as being among the principal sources for identifying the historic limits of Civil War battlegrounds.

The CVBT has acquired property outside the National Park boundary, along Route 20.  We took on this responsibility after deciding that these lands are important to the battlefield resource.  We are thus Orange County landowners and taxpayers.  The CVBT recognizes that other land outside of the authorized National Park boundary, on the north side of Route 3, has not been identified for preservation.

As battlefield preservation advocates and landowners, the CVBT joins with the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition to recommend an area plan that respects historic resources and supports existing communities.  We know that a good plan can include strong visual and physical mitigation of any development in the area of the Route 3 and Route 20 intersection.  A frontage road to serve the commercial development, low level signage, and generous tree cover are just some options that can provide an attractive commercial entryway, while retaining the feel of a place that is still called “Wilderness.”

Erik Nelson, President

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Noted Civil War historian and author Robert K. Krick, former chief historian at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, talks about his opposition to the proposed Wilderness Walmart in the latest Civil War Times. Krick stresses that “Walmart would be the epicenter of a commercial development explosion that would put tremendous pressure on the Wilder­ness battlefield.”  He goes on to point out that much of this pressure, and the concern of preservationists and local residents, could be alleviated if the Walmart was shifted farther up Route 3 in Orange County.  As has been stated all along, and Krick reaffirms, the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition is not trying to prevent a Walmart from being built anywhere in the county, but is simply trying to avoid having Walmart build at a location that would be disastrous for the Wilderness Battlefield.  As Krick concludes, “Everyone involved has to strive to get Walmart to do the right thing.”

Below is the full text of Mr. Krick’s remarks:

How does the Walmart proposed near the Wilderness battlefield concern you?

Walmart would be the epicenter of a commercial development explosion that would put tremendous pressure on the Wilder­ness battlefield. We need to deflect the development a little farther north. They should go somewhere else—not far away, necessarily, just a mile up the road—and it would alleviate almost all these concerns.
There’s a parallel here to the Disney park that was proposed near Manassas [in the 1990s]. That park was not on the heart of the battlefield, but it would have unquestionably brought incredible pressure to bear that would have vitiated the battlefield and reduced its viability. But it was successfully defeated. Everyone involved has to strive to get Walmart to do the right thing.

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The Orange County Review has an article this week (“Battle for the Wilderness”) on the Wilderness Battlefield being among the top 10 most endangered battlefields in the nation, according to the Civil War Preservation Trust’s 2009 report.  The article is pretty good but does not focus enough on just how devastating the proposed Walmart would be for the Wilderness Battlefield.  Friends of Wilderness Battlefield leaders are interviewed and show strong support for CWPT’s placement of Wilderness on the most endangered list, which should help bring attention to the very real, and imminent, threats facing Orange County’s most visited toursist attraction.  If Walmart were to move to a different location in Orange County a majority of these threats could be avoided and everyone would win, but to date Walmart (and the county) have shown no interest in a compromise solution.

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Great Blog Post

There is a terrific new blog post entitled “Does the Wilderness need a Walmart?” that everyone should read.

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Congressmen Ted Poe (TX) and Peter Welch (VT) spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last week to bring attention to the Wilderness Walmart issue.  The Congressmen spoke about the historical importance of the battlefield and their desire to see Walmart move to a less historic location in Orange County.  Please see the video below.

A special thanks to Congressmen Poe and Welch for their dedication to protecting the Wilderness Battlefield.

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Check out this video from CWPT highlighting the 2009 Top 10 Most Endangered Battlefields.

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CWPT’s History Under Siege report released yesterday has drawn a great deal of attention to the threat posed by Walmart at the Wilderness Battlefield.  Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss joined CWPT in calling for the protection of these vital links to our nation’s shared history.  A collection of these stories is posted below, please follow the links to read more about the Wilderness Battlefield making CWPT’s list of most endangered battlefields.

Free Lance-Star:  Wilderness makes ‘endangered’ list

Charlottesville Daily Progress:  Civil War site near planned Wal-Mart put on at-risk list

NBC 29 News (Charlottesville):  Wilderness Battlefield makes list of Endangered Battlefields

Culpeper Star-Exponent:  Wilderness in danger

WHSV 3 (Harrisonburg, Va.):  Actor Steps into Fight to Protect Battlefields

The Houston Chronicle (Houston, Tx.):  Dreyfuss calls attention to neglected battlefields

CNN:  Civil War battlefields at risk, preservationists warn

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