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Wal-Mart move 'common sense'
Civil War Preservation Trust chief calls on Orange supervisors, Wal-Mart to use 'common sense' in Wilderness development decision

 James Lighthizer, Civil War Preservation Trust president, visited Fredericksburg last week.
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Date published: 7/26/2009


James Lighthizer says he has no beef with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as a company, and admires its business savvy.

But he does have a big problem with where it plans to build a Supercenter in eastern Orange County: on part of the Wilderness battlefield within a cannon-shot of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Lighthizer's Civil War Preservation Trust--with other national, state and local groups--has been pressing Orange officials and Wal-Mart to locate the retail center elsewhere along State Route 3, farther from the battlefield. On the eve of the Orange supervisors' vote this week on the issue, he still believes a compromise is within reach.

"We just want Wal-Mart to do the right thing here," the CWPT president said in an interview while visiting Fredericksburg late last week. "All we're asking is for them to be good corporate citizens."

Likewise, Lighthizer believes the Orange Board of Supervisors could choose a different path, though he doesn't sound optimistic that it will.

"Orange County can have it all," he said. "The supervisors can preserve the battlefield, encourage tourism, promote economic development and have a well-planned retail project where people can shop."

He noted that the trust, its allies and the National Park Service are willing to fund a collaborative $80,000 effort to plan the future of Route 3's "gateway" to the Wilderness and to Orange. But a majority of the county supervisors has repeatedly expressed a lack of interest.

Trust spokesman Jim Campi said more than 10,000 people have written letters and e-mails to Wal-Mart and the Orange supervisors urging them to find another site for the 138,000-square-foot Supercenter, proposed for a site a quarter mile from the national park.

Lighthizer appealed to both parties, principally Wal-Mart, to use "common sense."

"Wal-Mart is a national corporation. They don't need this controversy," he said. "According to what I read in The Wall Street Journal, they're trying to change their image. And they've still got a chance to be heroes here.

"Wal-Mart shouldn't be involved in destroying, or denigrating, this very significant part of American history. The Wilderness was the beginning of [Union Gen. Ulysses S.] Grant's Overland Campaign, the beginning of the end of the Civil War."

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