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Parks chief praises Walmart
National Park Service, nonprofit group laud Walmart move to help preserve Wilderness battlefield

Date published: 1/28/2011

By CLINT SCHEMMER

The National Park Service's chief is among those praising the world's largest retailer for deciding not to build a Supercenter at the Wilderness.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis reacted to Walmart's abandonment of plans for a 143,000-square-foot store a cannon-shot from Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

"Walmart has crafted a solution where battlefield resources and the visitor experience will be protected, while still providing for the commercial needs of Orange," he said. "This is the end of three years of controversy and, hopefully, a new beginning for cooperative preservation."

Jarvis commended Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, a local nonprofit that preserves historic Ellwood Manor off State Route 20, and the larger preservation community for "their steadfast opposition to major commercial development at the gateway" to the Wilderness battlefield portion of the park.

On Wednesday, the second day of pretrial hearings in a lawsuit challenging a permit for the planned Supercenter, Walmart announced it wouldn't build on the site near State Routes 3 and 20 and would preserve the land "for future generations." The company said it plans to build a similar-size store elsewhere in eastern Orange's Route 3 corridor.

The crossroads area, which Civil War historian James McPherson has called the Union army's "nerve center" during the Battle of the Wilderness, was pivotal in that May 1864 fight.

Led by the Friends group, preservationists sued to stop Walmart's development. The trial had been expected to start this week.

"Those involved in the suit and their partners have done a service for which we should all be grateful," Jarvis said.

Others protesting against the 240,000-square-foot project included the Piedmont Environmental Council, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Civil War Trust.

Walmart's turnabout, Jarvis said, 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."

Park Superintendent Russ Smith expressed empathy for those disappointed by Walmart's switch.


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