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Groups want to sidetrack Orange project
National, regional preservation groups come out swinging against retail center, anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter, proposed at The Wilderness

 Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 8/22/2008

By CLINT SCHEMMER

Preservation groups have fired the opening salvo of a battle over development proposed in the Wilderness battlefield area.

The newly formed Wilderness Battlefield Coalition has informed Wal-Mart that it opposes its plan to build a 142,000-square-foot Supercenter near State Routes 3 and 20. On Wednesday, the trust e-mailed a "Take Action!" bulletin to its 20,000-plus activists and friends, urging them to write Wal-Mart President and CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. and express their views.

"This is just the wrong project at the wrong place at the wrong time," Civil War Preservation Trust spokesman Jim Campi said yesterday. "This kind of commercial development is absolutely incompatible with a battlefield park.

"Our principal concern is that this will create a mushroom effect and development is going to explode in that very sensitive Route 3 and Route 20 region, if this is allowed to proceed."

The nonprofit trust, headquartered in Washington, has joined forces with the Piedmont Environmental Council, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield, and the Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields to create the coalition.

Wal-Mart proposes to build a 141,487-square-foot store on about 15 acres of a 50-acre tract just north of Route 3, according to local officials. The parcel extends from Wilderness Run at the Spotsylvania County line toward Vaucluse Road, wrapping around a 7-Eleven, a Wachovia Bank branch and the Wilderness Center strip mall.

Another group has proposed a 1.65 million-square-foot retail, office and government complex, named Wilderness Crossing, on 846 acres adjacent to the planned Wal-Mart site.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Kelly Hobbs confirmed yesterday afternoon that the world's largest company intends to build on the smaller site in concert with developer JDC Ventures of Vienna.

"Wal-Mart is continuing our due diligence, and hopes to submit an application to the county within the next few weeks," Hobbs said. "We've been working with county staff for some months on design criteria in hopes our project will be consistent with the look and feel of Orange County."


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History snapshot

The Battle of the Wilderness, one of the Civil War's largest and most important conflicts, was the first clash between Gens. Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.

The battle began Grant's grueling Overland Campaign, which drained both armies and eventually brought Union troops to the gates of Richmond.

More than 160,000 men fought in the two-day struggle along the Orange Turnpike (modern State Route 20) and the Orange Plank Road. Nearly 29,000 Americans were killed, wounded or captured in the fighting at The Wilderness.