MIDDLETOWN, Va. (WDVM) — The well-known convenience store chain, Sheetz, is proposing a new truck stop in Frederick County, Virginia, right off of Interstate 81. But the land where the new truck stop would be built holds significant historical importance to the area.
Robert Clark and his neighbors were less than pleased to learn about the new development that would essentially become part of their backyards, so they created the Exit 302 Smart Development Coalition to try and preserve the history of the currently undeveloped land.
Clark explained that I-81 already runs through part of the core battlefield of the Battle of Cedar Creek, which was fought on Oct. 19, 1864. Unfortunately, most of the battlefield lies on the west side of the interstate, which has also been developed into commercial or residential space. So now Clark and his neighbors are trying to preserve what’s left of the battlefield on the east side of the highway.
“This parcel [of land for the proposed truck stop] is the last, just the only 20 acres of the battlefield on this side of 81 that it’s the last vestige of core battlefield over here,” Clark explained. “It’s also significant in the fact that it’s really not it’s not a position where there was an ebb and flow unnecessarily of battle. It’s really a marker of position when the Confederate forces were successful in routing the Union that morning.”
The Exit 302 Smart Development Coalition is not only concerned with the loss of the historic land with the new development, but also the environmental impacts a new gas station could have. Clark explained that the proposed land where the new truck stop would be built has no access to water or sewer which would have to be provided by the town of Middletown. Clark says that without a water treatment plant either on-site or provided by the town, the truck stop could damage not only the environment in the immediate area, as a majority of residents on the east side of the interstate rely on well water, but also larger waterways in the state.
So, storm runoff, the gray water, any fuel spill anything like that will affect the environment,” Clark explained. “It will go into the aquifer which drains into the Shenandoah, which drains into the Potomac, those types of things. So from an environmental standpoint, they either have to button everything up on site and clean it before it leaves the site or they can process it through a wastewater treatment facility.”
Clark compared the efforts he and the coalition are undertaking to the battle between David and Goliath. He hopes that this battle will bring awareness to what he and the coalition are calling “wanton destruction” of the historic piece of land. The coalition has already sent a letter to residents around Altoona and Blair County, Pennsylvania where the Sheetz headquarters resides and has received support from people on their website and social media pages but has heard radio silence from the company.
Sheetz released a statement responding to the concerns reading:
Sheetz is appreciative of the feedback it has received regarding its proposed location in Middletown, Va. As a family owned and operated company, Sheetz strives to be the best neighbor we can be in every community we serve. Representatives of Sheetz have met with the community group to understand their concerns. We look forward to continued dialogue with local officials and the community as the process continues.”
However, Clark says that neither he nor other members of the coalition have not had any such conversations.
“There has to be a smart development with the with the land, and that means bringing all parties to the table and thus far Sheetz has not responded has not contacted our group at all,” Clark said.
Rather than multiple fuel pumps for both passenger cars and semi trucks, the Exit 302 Smart Development Coalition would rather see the land preserved and instead have something more beneficial to the local residents constructed like a grocery store with a limited number of fuel pumps.
For more information about the Exit 302 Smart Development Coalition, please visit their website.