Rappahannock ‘cannot survive’

I just read your article about population growth, or rather lack thereof, in Rappahannock County. As you can infer, I am a citizen of the county, and so the findings presented in the article really resonated with me. Especially because I am also a millennial, and my age group seems near non-existent in our county.

I am curious to know if you, or anyone else, has taken a look at RCHS’s [Rappahannock County High School’s] graduating class size in relation to the study that UVA conducted. I would imagine that with families leaving the area, that RCHS has also experienced a decline in student population since 2010. This would be a major concern if true, because it is easier to engage and grow an existing population (i.e. requires less resources) than to bring new people in.

From my own perspective, it seems like every time I bump into someone that I know in the county they make a point to ask me to have kids, or to ask how I can even afford to live in Rappahannock. First of all, I’d like to ask my fellow citizens to please stop pressuring me into having children, like I’m responsible for repopulating the entire county.

Let’s address instead how incredibly financially difficult it is to live here. The average home price in Rappahannock is laughable for anyone my age. I’m 26. My outrageous internet bill each month alone hurts my budget, and the excruciatingly slow speeds and limited data have made me consider moving out of the county. I have many family members out-of-state that I can barely keep up with, because the technology they have access to allows them to move at a much faster pace than I ever could with HughesNet, Excede or Piedmont Broadband.

I’m quickly learning that the decision to move to this county was financially reckless — I am paying off student loans, a mortgage, and a car payment, as are most people in my age group. I haven’t even factored in yet what it might cost for my husband and I to start a family. I don’t want to move, but it seems like this county is doing whatever it can to make life less easy (financially and technologically) for me to live in.

I can appreciate the importance in protecting our rural setting and environment — Rappahannock’s rolling hillsides and green pastures give me a sense of peace that I don’t think I will ever find anywhere else. But my life would be made much easier if we started seriously considering that access to current technology in our county is preventing our population from growing, and in the long-term might actually be damaging it. This county cannot survive if its youngest generations of citizens are leaving it.

Karissa Epley


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