Editorial: Mixed blessings

Land is really what it’s all about here in Rappahannock County. We have no easily exploitable natural resources like coal or natural gas, no industrial base like manufacturing, no entrepreneurial incubator as in Silcon Valley, no retail mecca of big-box stores and shopping centers.

Land, largely undeveloped, is all there is here, the only economic asset. Plus, of course, there’re the people who populate it. And it’s a sparse population at that, one of the least densely peopled in the state, if not the country.

As an illustrative measure of just how few are the number of people here, not even one stoplight exists in the entire county. When I share this unusual fact with people outside Rappahannock, they find it almost incomprehensible, beyond their understanding of the way the world is supposed to work. Surely, there must be traffic here, they wonder: if not generated by local residents’ own autos and trucks, then by people enroute through the county to somewhere else.

But there is no “somewhere else” — or at least one worth going to, as proud Rappahannock residents might say. So it is we are spared the number-one local issue in the minds of nearby Northern Virginians: traffic congestion.

That is not to say, however, that we do not have our own set of problems. And they are directly tied to Rappahannock’s asset: the land, uniquely valuable and especially beautiful. It retains its beauty precisely because it is largely undeveloped — and there are so few people here to populate it.
Yet without people or productive land generating income, public funding is hard for the essential services and quality schools that Rappahannock so richly deserves.

There are no easy answers. And in this regard Rappahannock is certainly not alone in these trying economic times: Budget probems plague governments, large and small, federal, state and local.

So it is that the mission of the Rappahannock News will be to report and explore not only our unique problems but also, it is hoped, creative solutions as well. For a newspaper, at its traditional best, should be a forum for discussion for the citizens it serves.

Walter Nicklin