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VIEWPOINTS; Ferry Farm vs. Wal-Mart, by Cessie Howell

Date published: 6/14/2009

ISEE MANY similarities between the efforts to save Ferry Farm from commercial encroachment and current attempts to save the Wilderness battlefield from the same.

Here are some of the arguments:

"The property has been zoned commercial, and there are already businesses located nearby."

While this statement is true, it does not mean that a huge building and shopping center with hundreds of cars entering and exiting should be added to the mix. A Wal-Mart with all the traffic, lighting, and noise would greatly hurt and could even destroy this battlefield. If Wal-Mart had built on its desired location on historic Ferry Farm property, the creation of a quiet farm-like atmosphere representing Washington family land would have been impossible.

"A large store like Wal-Mart is needed in the area."

A Wal-Mart was needed in the State Route 3 east area, and I am sure it is needed in Orange County. Property owners stepped forward to help Wal-Mart locate a mile farther down Route 3. I would hope property owners near the Wilderness will do the same to help Wal-Mart relocate nearby. Then, Orange County, like Stafford County, would receive the tax benefits of a large store.

"The shopping center will create a buffer so that visitors to the Wilderness battlefield will not notice the shopping center."

There is no buffer big enough or high enough to minimize the noise, trash, lighting, and traffic. The plan was to build a berm between the shopping center and the historic area of Ferry Farm. In fact, the road closest to the berm would have been the truck entrance to the back of the store along the river. A large shopping center on a historic battlefield would destroy a very important part of history in our commonwealth. And once that historic land is gone, it is gone forever.

I am so grateful that the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, Wal-Mart, and Kenmore all worked together to find a solution that satisfied everyone. My prayer is that a solution can be worked out in Orange County, too.

Cessie Howell is a preservationist who lives in Stafford County.