Should WalMart Build in The Wilderness?

Friday, August 28, 2009

This Tuesday, as AP reports, "[t]he Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to grant the special permit to the world's biggest retailer after a majority of more than 100 speakers said they favored bringing the Walmart to Locust Grove, within a cannonball's shot from the Wilderness Battlefield." WakeUp WalMart has more, including their intention to "keep fighting" against Walmart building so close to the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition - "an alliance of national, state and local organizations with an abiding interest in the preservation of the historic Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County, Virginia - argues that it is inappropriate to build a 138,000-square-foot Wal-Mart supercenter right next to the Wilderness Battlefield and National Park, site of one of the most important battles of the Civil War. Here's more background information from the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition.
The Battle of the Wilderness, fought in early May 1864, was one of the most important battles of the Civil War. It marked the first clash between legendary generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. More than 160,000 men were engaged in the struggle; when the guns fell silent after two days of intense fighting, nearly 29,000 Americans had been killed, wounded or captured.

In 1993, the congressionally-chartered Civil War Sites Advisory Commission identified the proposed site of the Wal-Mart supercenter as entirely within the historic boundaries of the Wilderness Battlefield. The same study ranked the Wilderness as both one of the most significant battlefields of the Civil War and as one of the Civil War sites most in need of preservation. Just this year, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) and the National Park Service (NPS) reaffirmed that the Wal-Mart site is on battlefield land.

As proposed, Wal-Mart’s plan for commercial development on the battlefield alone is nearly quadruple the existing development at the Route 3 and Route 20 intersection. In addition, building on the battlefield and at the gateway to the National Park would undermine the overall visitor experience to the Wilderness Battlefield and would be incompatible with this unique and historic place. The Wilderness Battlefield is a national treasure. Any development in the area should pay respect to the soldiers who died there and the importance the battle played in our nation’s history.
Maybe I'm missing something here, like the (supposedly) urgent need to build retail right on top of a battlefield where 145,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought and more than 29,000 were killed or injured. Can't this store be located a mile down the road or something? What do you think?

P.S. Cregh Deeds weighed in on this, "imploring [Wal-Mart President Michael T. Duke] to move the retailer's Supercenter away from the Civil War battlefield."