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The past few months have been rough for Civil War battlefield preservation. A garbage-incinerating facility that Civil War Times reported on in the past will be built near the Monocacy battlefield, and a major retail operation looks to be a go near the Wilderness, although preservationists vow to continue the fight.

There has been some good news. More land at Gettysburg has been saved, and efforts are moving forward at Third Winchester and Glendale, among other sites (see, but it’s hard not to feel a bit glum about the setbacks and worry about the continued threat of sprawl, particularly in the Frederick, Md., to Richmond corridor.

Back in the early 1990s, many of you may remember the controversy that raged over the Walt Disney Company’s proposed “Disney’s America” theme park and its plans to build it in the Haymarket, Va., area, a few miles west of the Manassas battlefield.

Preservation-minded folks (this editor included) were outraged by the idea, and very concerned about the congestion and sprawl such a site would cause. Celebrations were long and loud when Disney gave up the idea. But amid that din there were a few dissenting voices that said it really didn’t matter—the area would still build up.

Sadly, that proved to be true. Housing developments and retail centers now abound around Haymarket. These developments went in one at a time, never arousing the type of national indignation that Disney did, but still bringing the same problems of congestion and increased traffic through the Manassas battlefield. Perhaps welcoming Mickey Mouse might have been the lesser of two evils.

It’s hard to know what to think. The idea of a history theme park is galling (“Well, kids, do you want to see a slave auction or go on the ‘Bloody Lane water slide’ after lunch?”), but destruction of our heritage is hard to take, no matter who is the culprit.

Originally published in the December 2009 issue of Civil War Times.