26 January 2011 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 12 comments

To give Wal-Mart a world of credit, it has done the right thing. Not only has it thrown in the towel and pulled the plug on the Wilderness superstore, it’s going to go ahead and purchase the land and then donate it in order to ensure that nobody else gets a chance to threaten it. I think Sam Walton would be proud.

From the CWT website:

January 26, 2011

For more information, contact:
Jim Campi, (202) 367-1861 x7205
Mary Koik, (202) 367-1861 x7231


Preservation community pleased with decision by retail giant to drop plans to build a supercenter within historic boundaries of Wilderness battlefield

(Orange, Va.) – In an unexpected development, Walmart announced this morning that it has abandoned plans to pursue a special use permit previously awarded to the retail giant for construction of a supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield. The decision came as the trial in a legal challenge seeking to overturn the special use permit was scheduled to begin in Orange County circuit court.

“We are pleased with Walmart’s decision to abandon plans to build a supercenter on the Wilderness battlefield,” remarked James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust. “We have long believed that Walmart would ultimately recognize that it is in the best interests of all concerned to move their intended store away from the battlefield. We applaud Walmart officials for putting the interests of historic preservation first. Sam Walton would be proud of this decision.”

The Civil War Trust is part of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, an alliance of local residents and national groups seeking to protect the Wilderness battlefield. Lighthizer noted that the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition has sought from the very beginning to work with county officials and Walmart to find an alternative location for the proposed superstore away from the battlefield.

“We stand ready to work with Walmart to put this controversy behind us and protect the battlefield from further encroachment,” Lighthizer stated. “We firmly believe that preservation and progress need not be mutually exclusive, and welcome Walmart as a thoughtful partner in efforts to protect the Wilderness Battlefield.”

In August 2009, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a controversial special use permit to allow construction of the Walmart Supercenter and associated commercial development on the Wilderness Battlefield. A wide range of prominent individuals and organizations publicly opposed the store’s location, including more than 250 American historians led by Pulitzer Prize-winners James McPherson and David McCullough. One month after the decision, a group of concerned citizens and the local Friends of Wilderness Battlefield filed a legal challenge to overturn the decision.

The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–6, 1864, was one of the most significant engagements of the American Civil War. Of the 185,000 soldiers who entered combat amid the tangled mass of second-growth trees and scrub in Virginia’s Orange and Spotsylvania counties, some 30,000 became casualties. The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, composed of Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, Piedmont Environmental Council, Preservation Virginia, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Parks Conservation Association, and Civil War Trust, seeks to protect this irreplaceable local and national treasure.

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, the Trust has preserved nearly 30,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org.

Wal-Mart will find another location a few miles further west on Route 3 that is not historic ground, and it will build there with the blessing of those of us who care about these things.

From today’s edition of the Orange News

“We are actively pursuing another site along Route 3,” said Bill Wertz, divisional director for Walmart.

The retail giant said it would still purchase the 51 acres intended for the Wilderness Walmart in hopes of conserving the land.

“This will ensure the property is not commercially developed,” said Wertz, adding the land will be placed in conservation for perpetuity.

Kudos to Wal-Mart for finding a way to turn an ugly situation into a win-win, and kudos to everyone whose hard work made this possible, and especially to the CWT, the Central Virginia Battlefields Foundation, and the other preservation organizations who led the fight.

Scridb filter


  1. dan
    Wed 26th Jan 2011 at 1:00 pm

    So, what you’re saying here is that it’s now okay to shop at Walmart?

  2. Dylan
    Wed 26th Jan 2011 at 1:32 pm

    FanTASTIC news!!!! Even better outcome than I ever imagined. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Tim Ferry
    Wed 26th Jan 2011 at 2:08 pm

    This is successful news we have all been wanting and waiting to hear! It’s almost like a breakthrough in the enemy lines, now we have to follow it up with the complete purchase of the Saunders Field area property that the Civil War Trust is trying to acquire and pay off. Once that is done this will be a complete and utter victory for Civil War preservationists and history buffs everywhere!

  4. Wed 26th Jan 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Great news!

  5. Michael Aubrecht
    Wed 26th Jan 2011 at 4:52 pm

    It’s great news, but Walmart still SUCKS.

  6. John Foskett
    Wed 26th Jan 2011 at 4:54 pm

    This is indeed excellent (and unusual) news. Good for Wal-Mart ultimately taking a stance that the local board apparently was afraid to take. It’s nice to know that you can place greater trust in a land developer to do the right thing than you can in the folks who are elected to do that.

  7. Wed 26th Jan 2011 at 5:34 pm

    WOW. I definitely did not see this one coming, and I’m sure many of you are similarly pleasantly surprised by this news. The bonus is that not only are they finally dropping this ridiculous move, they’re one upping it by helping to preserve the land! Excellent news and hopefully this story serves as an added bit of advertising for the CWT as the story goes viral. When I get home from work, I’ll be doing my part in that effort with my Twitter, Facebook, and StumbleUpon accounts. I hope others join me.

  8. Chris Evans
    Wed 26th Jan 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Great news! So glad to here it! One victory at the Wilderness with many more to go to preserve our important Civil War heritage.

  9. Randy Sauls
    Thu 27th Jan 2011 at 5:43 pm

    What a pleasant surprise! There are just some things that should trump the pursuit of profit, and the preservation of that battlefield is one of them. I’m among the first to complain about those who would threated hallowed gound, so it seems only right to give credit where it is due when the right thing is done. Way to go, Walmart! No more bad-mouthing from me!

  10. Maureen B. Rice
    Sun 30th Jan 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Do you have an address where a thank-you (although after bitter battle) can be sent? Is Bill Wertz the rep to get such a TY? The preservation of this land in perpetuity is a great gesture, and that ought to be acknowledged. The WalMart management should be commended, regardless of hard feelings past.

  11. Sun 30th Jan 2011 at 3:45 pm

    An excellent point, Maureen. Try this: https://secure3.convio.net/cwpt/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=149


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