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Category: Preservation

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.

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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.

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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…

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