The Commonwealth of Virginia
In 1999 I visited Virginia for the first time since 1981. Heading to D.C. from the Midwest, I was under the impression that much of the landscape of the East Coast was now just one massive metropolitan area from Boston to D.C..
I’m still a little embarrassed by my twenty-something self, but while I wasn’t expecting skyscrapers as far as the eye could see, I did not expect the ruralness that was western and souther Virginia. I hate to make assumption, but I’d be willing to bet many folks who have not been to or ventured outside of the I-95 corridor or the Beltway would have similar thoughts about this state.
With the western portion of Virginia in the mountainous region of Appalachia, it is a different type of rural than what is typically addressed when I talk about rural agricultural areas, but the southern part of the state fits that template and it is seeing declines. A recent study from the University of Virginia projected that all of the southern counties, with exception to a few costal counties, in the state will see population declines between 2020 & 2040. Some as high as 22%, like Grayson County which is at population levels it hasn’t seen since the 1890s.
Like some many rural places, the positives are attractive; open spaces with less crowding, clean air, stunning views, but economic opportunities, adequate health care and education, or even high-speed internet are hurdles that are hard to over come.
With small counties like Highland, that has just over 2,600 people, losing people each years seems par for the course, but even Buchanan County, which as recently as 1980 had 38,000 residents, can’t stop the exodus. It has averaged over a 10% decline each decade since then and could fall to 20,000 by 2025.
Lost Americana is about telling the stories of the people who live in rural America.
•Have you lived in the same rural area since the 1970/80s?
•Were you the last class to graduate from a rural school before it closed its doors forever?
•Do you know of a small town (under 2,000 people) that is a shell of it’s former self?
•Do you just what to give me some feedback on the topics we cover?
Don’t be shy, go to the “Connect” page and drop me a line. Also don’t be afraid to reach out to me via social media, links are at the bottom of each page.