- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

RICHMOND — Preservation Virginia on Monday joined a growing opposition that says a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter near the Wilderness Battlefield threatens the Civil War site where nearly 29,000 troops were killed or injured 145 years ago.

The private nonprofit preservation group sided with a who’s who of historians, congressmen and celebrities who have taken a stand against the 138,000-square-foot store in Orange County.

“The proposed Wal-Mart would degrade the rural character of the battlefield, promote commercial sprawl, and drastically increase traffic through the heart of the park,” Preservation Virginia said.

Orange County planners are scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday on the Wal-Mart proposal. The Board of Supervisors will have the final vote later.

Wal-Mart maintains the store along a commercial strip will not diminish the battlefield and will provide hundreds of jobs to a rural area located about 60 miles southwest of the District. Some local officials have also said the rural county could use an economic boost.

The Wilderness is known primarily as the place where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Union counterpart, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, first met in battle on May 5-6, 1864.

About 2,700 acres of the Wilderness Battlefield are protected as part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Preservation Virginia included the Wilderness Battlefield in its 2009 list of most endangered historic sites released Monday. The others, and Preservation Virginia’s concerns, include:

• Historic tobacco barns, Pittsylvania County. Once a common part of the landscape, barns used to cure tobacco leaves are giving way to modern structures. The barns are not protected by historic district designations or regulations.

• The Obici House in Suffolk, built in 1924 by Amedeo Obici, the founder of Planters Peanut Co. Suffolk is home to Mr. Peanut, the dapper nut with the top hat on his unshelled head that Mr. Obici used to promote his Virginia peanuts. The home is now vacant and neglected.

• McIntire Park in Charlottesville, called the city’s largest and most underused park. Philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire gave the land to the city in 1926. It includes a nine-hole municipal golf course. Proposed road construction threatens to limit activities within the park.

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