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All of Orange County can claim true victory

 A gateway study seeks common ground for economic development and preservation.
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 7/8/2012

On June 26, this paper published an op-ed by Patti Tarallo ["Orange residents routed at 'Second Wilderness'"] regarding the years-long efforts of preservationists at the local, state, regional, and national levels alike to prevent Walmart from building atop hallowed ground at the entrance to Orange County's Wilderness Battlefield.

Plainly put, Ms. Tarallo's op-ed was off the mark in every way but one: Preservationists did indeed "win the second Battle of the Wilderness."

But this victory was not ours alone. By promising to preserve the property it had originally chosen for construction of its new Orange County store and agreeing to select an alternate site away from the battlefield, Walmart ensured that both it and the county emerged victorious as well.

Furthermore, preservationists have remained engaged in Orange County throughout the many months since, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Board of Supervisors, business leaders, landowners, and residents to create a balance between preservation and economic development--and, in the words of Board Chairman Teel Goodwin, "find common ground to meld a future that we all can share."

The name of this joint effort is the Wilderness Battlefield Gateway Study.

While Walmart has rightly pledged to preserve the original Wilderness site in perpetuity, the Gateway Study takes a look at the land nearby, serving to illustrate how Orange County can continue to develop the State Route 3 corridor in a way that ensures progress and preservation work hand in hand.

I would encourage Ms. Tarallo and all others wishing to learn of the full scope of factual findings to visit WildernessGate way.org, a website published last year where one can review the progress of the multiphase Gateway Study to date-- including a copy of the project's Phase I report.

As with the "second Battle of the Wilderness," I am confident that the Gateway Study will ultimately prove a win for all involved.

Zann Nelson


The writer is president, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield Inc.