Wal-Mart Fight: Rebuffed preservationists remain willing

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Its recent peace overture got a frosty reception, but the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition remains committed to working with Orange County on developments proposed at the gateway to the Civil War site.

Two weeks ago, three Orange supervisors slam-med the coalition's offer to collaborate on planning the area's future, calling it a ruse to delay their decision on a proposed retail center anchored by a 138,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter. One called the offer a "cheap ploy to slow down Wal-Mart."

Not so, coalition leaders say.

"These things aren't done overnight," said Jim Campi of the Civil War Preservation Trust. "But we're committing to a time frame of six months, which is pretty quick in the planning world."

The coalition's nonprofit groups and the National Park Service are offering to finance a $40,000 effort to help Orange find ways to create jobs and boost its economy while preserving the scenic landscapes that make the Wilderness battlefield the county's No. 1 tourist attraction, Campi said. All of the money, including the Park Service funds, would come from private donations.

"It's a good-faith effort, not a delaying tactic," said Russ Smith, superintendent of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. "The people who are trying to put this together honestly want to try to create a vision for the gateway to the park that can be economically viable, yet respectful of the area."

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