Editorial: Consequential choices

Money isn’t everything. That’s easy to say for those of us still standing at the tail end (one hopes!) of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. So to rephrase the sentiment:

Who here would want to live in Loudoun County? Fairfax? Prince William? That’s what I thought . . . . Very few, if any, would want to change places with our suburban neighbors to the east.

And yet that’s where the money is, according to Forbes magazine, which placed Loudoun, Prince William, and both the County and City of Fairfax, in its “Top 25” ranking of the nation’s most affluent jurisdictions. In fact, Loudoun, which in the not so distant past was mostly rural just like Rappahannock, ranked No. 1.

The highest median household income in the nation, at $110,643 annually, is in Loudoun. With the money, of course, has come population growth. Loudoun’s population, currently about 300,000, has doubled in a decade.

Rappahannock could, of course, make good use of that kind of money but is lucky not to have participated in the concomitant population growth pattern. Thus, as an environmentalist once said of the state of Maine, Rappahannock is “a kind of second frontier,” where the tragic mistakes that often accompanied fast-growing communities can be avoided.

“If a community really cares and plans ahead, it will retain its good character and sense of place through succeeding generations,” wrote the late Richard Saltonstall Jr. in his “Maine Pilgrimage: The Search for an American Way of Life.” The main ingredients of this social continuity and stability, he posited, are “strong family units, close and abiding community ties, and a strong commitment to the land.”

Those values have long since disappeared in the bedroom communities and so-called Edge Cities to our east.

And it’s not simply due to historical accident that Rappahannock retains its social ties and strong commitment to the land. The people here have made consequential choices over the years — and will, we hope, continue to do so. We’ll be all the happier for it, certainly happier than our monied neighbors to the east.

Walter Nicklin