National Park Service’s LBGT Theme Study

On Tuesday, I attended the Department of Interior’s inaugural panel discussion for the new theme study on Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) history in the National Park Service (NPS). The study is part of a larger effort within NPS to ensure that the histories of minority Americans are included and communicated in their sites.

NPS Director John Jarvis and Panelists on stage, seated.

The panel opened with remarks by the National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, followed by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel and John Berry, who is Ambassador to Australia and one of the first openly gay ambassadors in the United States. In her remarks, Secretary Jewel stated that “place matters” but LGBT communities have not had places to mark their significance to the larger American story. She talked about the need for young people who are struggling with their identities to hear their story told in a way that helps them realize that they are not alone.

Continue reading “National Park Service’s LBGT Theme Study”

No WalMart at the Wilderness

Today, the news came that WalMart had decided not to build on the disputed spot on the Wilderness Battlefield. I am cautiously optimistic.

Back in May, 2009, I attended the hearing regarding the WalMart held by the County board of supervisors. I apparently didn’t blog about the meeting afterwards, for which I apologize. Two statements by citizens of the county really caught my attention.

One was from a gentleman who studied the history of the Battle of Wilderness; I believe he was a professional historian. The Board of Supervisors, WalMart, and their supporters repeatedly said that the site “wasn’t on the battlefield” – what they meant was that it wasn’t in the bounds of the state and national parks. According to the historian who spoke, the spot where the WalMart wanted to build was where units from the United States Colored Troops had been stationed, and nearby was where wounded soldiers had been taken for aid. Not active battlefield, to some people’s minds, but an important part of the landscape of the battle.

The other memorable points came from a former Law Enforcement Officer. He had lived and worked in a county much like Orange, which had seen the construction of a big box store, heralded as a bringer of jobs and income. What it brought, he said, was an increase in petty crime and thereby an increased need for police. He pointed out that there is only one jail in Orange County – in the city of Orange. There is only one road from the battlefield area to the county seat, a two-lane country road, and the drive from one to the other is about half an hour to 45 minutes (I speak from experience). He was concerned about the location and the potential negative drain on the county’s resources. Continue reading “No WalMart at the Wilderness”

Wilderness Update

Nothing from the courts, I’m afraid, but the NTHP has named Wilderness Battlefield as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2010.

It’s also worth noting that the #1 most endangered historic place is America’s State Parks and State-Owned Historic Sites. If you have a State-owned historic site or park that you enjoy, please think about donating some money to help them out. We’re all in tight spots financially, but it these places close, they’re likely gone forever.

Lawsuit on Wilderness Battlefield moves forward

Just an update on Wilderness Battlefield: the judge has ruled that the lawsuit brought by local residents, the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation can move forward, although the NTHP has been dropped as a plaintiff since they apparently do not qualify as an affected party. Read the full press release from the NTHP.

Disappointed but not surprised

The Board of Supervisors for Orange County, VA,  has approved at WalMart on the Wilderness Battlefield; see the coverage from the Associated Press and the NTHP’s blog entry.

One of the comments on the NTHP blog states a “fact” which was circulated by the pro-WalMart groups, but in fact parts of the battle were fought on the parcel of land being used by WalMart; according to one historian who spoke at the Planning Commission meeting back in May, that was where the African-American unit from the Union was stationed, and also where the wounded were taken to be treated. Historically, neither of these groups might have been seen as important enough to comemmorate, but surely in the 21st century they are?

I am disappointed and somewhat angry at the decision, but not all that surprised by it. Even before the first hearing by the Planning Commission, before the reports were in, two of the Board had said they would support WalMart at all costs. Orange County could use some help with its economy, but as many people have said, that location is not the best. The store might stimulate the economy a little, but how much is it going to cost the county in terms of law enforcement, traffic accidents, and national image?

County Planning Meeting – WalMart and Wilderness

Tonight, for better or worse, I am attending the Planning Commission meeting for Orange County, Va.* I have read the staff report regarding MalWart’s request for permission to build on the edge of the county, and the conditions for approval.

I do not want the WalMart in this county.  I object to it on social, historical, and political grounds. That said, I recognize that the historical preservationist argument has failed to convince the county residents who support the WalMart. Having read the staff report, here are the questions I want to have answered tonight:

  • Who is going to pay for the roads to be built? VDOT listed 8 actions which would need to be taken in order for the site not to create traffic problems. Where is this money going to come from?
  • Where is the money for extra law enforcement going to come from? Do we really think private security will be sufficient? The Walmart will be right on the border with Spotsylvania County.
  • How feasible is finding a solution to the water supply issue? Will the county allow them to build without the water there in case of a fire?
  • How is the County going to hold WalMart accountable to the recommendations in A1? Fine them? Slap them on the wrist? Or cause them to cease and desist? As far as I can tell, WalMart doens’t play by anyone’s rules but its own!

Also: the estimated economic impact of WalMart – jobs and money brought to the county – is from WalMart. What are external (non-biased) estimates?

I don’t know how long I will last in the meetings. I like discussing historical politics becuase it’s all gone – if the meeting gets too shouting and non-productive I may leave. I’m not willing to waste my time with people who only listen to themselves talk and do not actually engage in a real dialogue.

*Full disclosure: I don’t live in Orange County, I live in a nearby city. I work in Orange County, and very good friends of mien live near the propsed site.