Wilderness Battlefield Update

A New Model of Collaboration Is Unveiled

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On Friday, April 13th, NPCA and fellow members of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition released the Wilderness Battlefield Gateway Study that demonstrates how protection of our sacred places and economic growth can coexist is a planned complementary manner. In January 2011, in response to a legal challenge, Walmart withdrew its plans to build a superstore on a privately owned portion of the Wilderness Battlefield. As part of our advocacy for alternatives to a Walmart store on battlefield land, the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition had commissioned this study to analyze the needs of the community and to offer alternative paths of sustainable growth surrounding the battlefield. 

Why a Gateway Study?

The goals of the study were to determine how to make the major intersection into Orange County a gateway to the region’s cultural and natural resources; to illustrate development options that would support heritage tourism; and to provide opportunities for business growth that are compatible with protecting the county’s natural, cultural and scenic resources. A team of experts analyzed the region’s present economic base and future options, transportation needs and problems, and existing cultural and natural resources. The team then held a series of stakeholder meetings to ask the residents of Orange County to share their vision for the future of their neighborhood.

After more than a year of on-the-ground research, interactive public meetings, and input from local landowners and Orange County officials, the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition announced the study’s findings.

Highlights of the research find:

  • Natural and cultural features like Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park and the Rapidan River are valuable assets that draw visitors to Orange County;
  • Future conservation of land should be prioritized by its significance and proximity to these natural, historic, and cultural features;
  • Planned infrastructure capacity for water and waste water management is critical for economic growth; and
  • Without planned growth, sprawl will overtake major roadways, increasing infrastructure costs and harming natural, historic, and cultural resources.

The Wilderness Battlefield Gateway Study offers three alternative visions for future growth in Orange County. These development scenarios will protect natural, historic, and cultural resources while allowing the county to thrive economically. In fact, future development would capitalize on the presence of the national park and other natural areas to attract new visitors. The findings of this Study will provide valuable information to decision-makers and residents of Orange County as they plan their community’s future.

As development pressures collide with remaining open space throughout the country, our national parks often become caught in the middle. The Wilderness Battlefield Gateway Study is an exciting new model of collaboration among residents, the business community and park advocates.  By working together, we can protect our sacred places while encouraging smart growth that further feeds the local economy.

To learn more or to read the Wilderness Battlefield Gateway Study, click here.


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