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Balancing the past and future in Wilderness
Wilderness Coalition offers a vision for development of Orange County intersection of State Routes 3 and 20.

 Tree-lined Vaucluse Road in eastern Orange County is part of the Wilderness Gateway Visioning Study, which suggests a mix of village-style development and parkland.
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Date published: 10/7/2011


A new vision is emerging for future development of land north of State Route 3 and the Wilderness battlefield in Orange County in the wake of Walmart's withdrawal of its Supercenter plan there.

Orange residents received their first look at what might happen there during an open house Monday night.

The concept plan developed and presented by Hill Studio, a consulting team hired by the Wilderness Coalition earlier this year, suggests that the 3,300 acres of privately owned real estate become a regional park interspersed with villages or hamlets.

Some 1,000 housing units would be built within the first 20 years, as would small specialized retail and recreational opportunities using the parkland and the Rapidan River.

Titled the Wilderness Gateway Visioning Study, its purpose is to suggest arrangements that balance development and conservation with historic preservation and tourism.

The study was presented as a draft, and the public is asked to comment on it. The full report may be found online at wildernessgateway .org

The Wilderness Coalition is composed of the Civil War Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield. The groups have reportedly paid $100,000 for the six-month study.

The coalition was originally established to fund a study of the area around the Wilderness intersection of State Routes 3 and 20 when Walmart wanted to build a Supercenter nearby. It offered the study to Orange County officials on the condition that they not approve any development in the area until the study was complete.

A majority of the supervisors decided the preservationists were trying to derail the Walmart project, and the study was turned down.

Members of the coalition eventually sued the county after it approved the Walmart, but the lawsuit ended when Walmart withdrew its plans and selected a site farther west on State Route 3, four miles from the battlefield.

About 50 people attended the open house at the new Locust Grove school on Flat Run Road and heard presentations from consultants on cultural resources, transportation, economic development, conservation and recreation in a mixed-use structure.

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