National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis today released a statement after Wal-Mart, Inc. abandoned plans for a Supercenter retail store on land that was part of the “Wilderness” in Virginia.
Jarvis said, “Wal-Mart has crafted a solution where battlefield resources and the visitor experience will be protected, while still providing for the commercial needs of Orange County. This is the end of three years of controversy and, hopefully, a new beginning for cooperative preservation.”
Jarvis commended the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield and a larger historic preservation community for their steadfast opposition to major commercial development at the gateway to the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park.
In August 2009, the Orange County Virginia Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit to allow construction of the Wal-Mart Supercenter and several other retail outlets near the “Wilderness Junction” west of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
The historic preservation community, led by Friends of the Battlefield, filed a lawsuit to stop the development plan. Wednesday was the second day of the trial in Orange County Circuit Court and attorneys for Wal-Mart announced they would not build the store.
Jarvis said, “Those involved in the suit and their partners have done a service for which we should all be grateful.”
Others involved in the protest against the retail development included the National Park & Conservation Association, the Piedmont Environmental Council, the National Trust, and the Civil War Trust.
The Battle of the Wilderness sprawled over several thousand acres about 15 miles west of Fredericksburg, Virginia, on May 5-6, 1864. It was the first clash between Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Historians call it the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Park Superintendent Russ Smith said, “It is best known for the confused nature of the battle in a thickly wooded area and the horrors of the fires that consumed many of the wounded. There were 28,000 casualties during the fight.”
Jarvis said, “This is good news for historic preservation, especially as we near the start of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the commemorative activities that will highlight the Wilderness and many more events and the people who lived and died during a time that shook our nation to its foundation.”