Editorial: Shaping the future

Sometimes Rappahannock County seems so different from the rest of the United States that it feels like its own, separate country. But consider this:

If we were indeed an independent nation-state, we’d be in serious trouble. We don’t produce enough to cover the costs of what we consume, so to get hard currency we sell off our only assets (real estate) to foreigners (newcomers).

That’s just another (perhaps overly dramatic) way of saying Rappahannock County doesn’t really have what is popularly called a “sustainable business model.”

Agriculture is no longer this rural county’s economic engine. With a few notable exceptions, the once vibrant small family farms here simply can’t compete with hugely scaled-up agribusinesses.

And while ever-growing tourism dollars are welcome, they may not provide the painless panacea that many of our leaders seem to be counting upon. For in becoming simply a “tourist destination,” like Nantucket or Telluride, will we be selling our soul, just as many believe that the Massachusetts whaling capital and Colorado mining village have done by effectively becoming themeparks for the well-to-do?

But what’s the alternative?

In the coming months, the Rappahannock News intends to devote what limited resources we have to exploring this and other important questions — the answers to which are critical to the county’s future. But first, we want to hear from our engaged readers. What other questions should be posed — and then explored in-depth?

Housing, available and affordable? Drug use? Local governance? Environmental threats? Land use?

Please let us know what you think are the most important issues facing Rappahannock, and we’ll do our best to start a meaningful conversation.

For in less than two decades (the year 2033 to be precise), the county will be celebrating its bicentennial, and we should begin thinking now about the shape of its third century.

Walter Nicklin


  1. Definitely protecting the environment through land use policies, that keep our county the unique, beautiful place it is. It is my Walden, my Innisfree, my Rivendell. It was a refuge to come back to when my life was in a very bad place. I love our John Denver roads, our fields of hay or livestock,our lovely, friendly little towns and villages.
    Strictly speaking I am neither a newcomer(wealthy or otherwise), or a long term native. I grew up here in very modest circumstances, graduated from RCHS(Class of 1965), and lived and worked most of my adult life in Charlottesville after attending the University.
    I realized this was still my home and that I needed a change.Charlottesville was no longer the pleasant place it was when I first went there- as a result of overwhelming development and population growth.
    Another article this week spoke of how people in my age group preferred an urban environment.It didn’t speak for me, I have no interest in the “amenities” and “nightlife”, for the whole bundle of urban lifestyle crapola. Katydids and frogs calling are all the nightlife I wish.
    People keep bringing up the issue of “affordable housing.” Heard the same in Charlottesville, and I daresay it goes on in other places. Up there they had public housing and section 8 subsidized housing. And all the crime,drugs,gangs, welfare dependency, and general hopelessness and despair that seem to inevitably go along with such. I do think the Washington Town Council erred in turning down that proposal- it would have not brought problems such as described from the way I understood it.
    The problem is not housing, it is wages. Working people are not being paid fairly and adequately ANYWHERE! Check out the site of US Senator Bernie Sanders on Facebook, or the writings of Robert Reich. But as long as the political situation remains as it is there is little hope for change. But thats another topic.
    NO, I don’t want to see McDonaldS, 7-11, and the like here! I came back here to get away from such.

  2. Congratulations, you are finally asking the right question. It’s about time. Tourism alone cannot provide a viable economy for Rappahannock. But this county has a keep-out mentality that discourages any business development and job opportunities. A good example is your campaign to oppose a possible dollar store in the union Bank commercial area. Such a store would have served the county’s lower- income consumers and provided a few jobs. The Wasihington Town cabal killed an affordable housing project because they feared it would bring in people unlike them–rich and snobby. Rappahannock leaders have an exclusionary mindset. The county now is composed of the rich from elsewhere and the indigenous poor, with little middle class in between. It never will have a vibrant economy until it finds ways to provide jobs in business and affordable housing. The alternative is to let people like Jim Abdo take over and turn it into an exclusive playground for their rich and powerful friends.

  3. Rural Tourism: It’s Never Been A Better Time to Be A Small Town – http://www.cfra.org/node/2504 (might apply to say county in this case)

    http://ruraltourismmarketing.com/ “Take a close look at how San Luis Obispo organized a countywide effort with over 70 different stewardship opportunities. This was a huge organizational and educational project overseen by the creator of the Stewardship Tourism concept, Diane Strachan. She can be hired for regional consultation.”

    Is there a farmer’s market on the weekend to draw people out?

  4. Definitely housing and affordable eateries for the people who cannot afford to eat at the local bruhaha’s. Also it’s true there is no workable business model in this county to formulate, assist, empower other types of business growth. We have Biz Rapp but I don’t take them seriously – they are more interested in tourism and socializing and schmoozing for their own benefit versus sitting down and doing some serious work as leaders in the business community (this is totally my experience). We need some seious ongoing work like the Chamber does in Culpeper. Also, as a result of this bridge closing, I personally want to see more infrastructure work done such as paving some of these back roads – making them safe to travel on and especially with the increased interest in expanding tourism. Next, what do we need to do to keep our agribusinesses (small and large farms) we need to be able to cultivate our own food to be sustainable – not willing to purchase from other countries. Next what do we need to do to protect our water sources. These for starters – believe me – I can come up with more.

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