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Wal-Mart donates 50 acres of land near Civil War battlefield

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Wal-Mart has donated to the commonwealth more than 50 acres of land near the Wilderness Civil War battlefield.

The discount retailer had bought the land at the intersection of Routes 3 and 20 in Orange County with plans to  build a 143,000-square-foot store.  In 2011, however, the company changed course, saying it would preserve the property and seek another site after opposition to the store resulted in a lawsuit and intense criticism..

Preservationists and some local residents feared the store would usher in massive development, ruining the "gateway" to the Wilderness battlefield where the armies of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant fought in 1864.

Opponents filed a lawsuit after the Orange Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit in 2009 allowing store construction to begin. The dispute attracted national attention.

Wal-Mart has since constructed a store on property four miles west of the original site.

"With this donation, Wal-Mart successfully fulfills the commitment made in 2011 to choose an alternate site and work to set aside the original location,” Jim Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust, said in a statement. “We deeply appreciate Wal-Mart’s gift and the commonwealth’s willingness to facilitate this important milestone in the protection of battlefield lands.”

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will receive the donated land. The department holds or co-holds easements on thousands of acres of privately-owned battlefield lands throughout the commonwealth. The easements protect the lands from future development.

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