A rainbow at The Wilderness Battlefield, Spotsylvania and Orange Counties, Va.,

A rainbow fills the sky at The Wilderness Battlefield, Spotsylvania and Orange Counties, Va.,

Buddy Secor

Stop the Largest Rezoning in Orange County History

Urge officials to reconsider “Wilderness Crossing”


The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nationwide nonprofit whose mission is the preservation of key sites from American history, has declared that Wilderness Battlefield is one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the country due to the proposed Wilderness Crossing development. The 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites list has been used since 1988 to raise awareness about critical threats to our nation's cherished places. Receiving this listing both highlights the danger the battlefield faces and shows the broad base of support for saving the battlefield which exists across the preservation community. Learn more here.

The Background

In May 2023, Orange County, Va., approved a massive residential and commercial development at the intersections of Route 3 and 20.  Believing that decision was fundamentally flawed, with failures in both substance and procedure, the Trust, joined by other regional nonprofits and private citizens filed a legal challenge to overturn the rezoning and block construction. This lawsuit is the single most likely way in which we can effect change to this development threat.

What Are Data Centers? 

At 2,602 acres, the “Wilderness Crossing” project would dramatically change development patterns in the eastern part of the county – transforming it from a wooded and relatively rural area into a sea of stoplights, traffic congestion, and cookie-cutter  development. It could result in more than 5,000 residential units, massive amounts of commercial and industrial development, and more than 5 million square feet of data centers. Learn more about the Wilderness Crossing proposal and the Wilderness Gateway Study.

Development of this scale and type would hinder visitors’ experience and understanding of the May 1864 battle that saw the first confrontation between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee and began the bloody Overland Campaign. The 47,000 vehicle trips this mega-development stands to create locally each day will make residents suffer through traffic that chokes county roads and makes even trips to the grocery store or after school activities an exercise in frustration. We ask Orange County officials to adhere to the standards put forward in the Wilderness Gateway Plan and that it embraced in the Germanna Wilderness Area Plan nearly a decade ago. 

This effort does not mark the first attempt to stave off development in this part of the county, considered the gateway to the historic Wilderness Battlefield. Beginning in 2009, alongside local residents and members of the Wilderness Battlefield Commission, the American Battlefield Trust opposed a development proposal that would have seen a Walmart Supercenter built at the intersection of Route 3 and 20 – near the same area threatened now. Ultimately a win-win scenario resulted in the retailer donating the site for conservation and building its store further west of Route 3.

Born out of that dispute, the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition sought to establish a vision for the future of that land through the Wilderness Gateway Study.  The 2012 report advocated for a model of development that would successfully preserve open space, allow for readjustments of intersections that would help preserve the rural lifestyle of Orange County residents while minimizing damage to the battlefield.  The study was embraced by residents, park advocates and county officials alike – and many of its recommendations were adopted by Orange County in its Germanna Wilderness Area Plan. Unfortunately, the current proposal has abandoned the principles underpinning the Wilderness Gateway Study and the County’s Germanna Wilderness Area Plan.  

How You Can Help 

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There is only one national organization working to save America's battlefields today and for future generations: The American Battlefield Trust. We...