The Jordan's Point Dam on the Maury River once symbolized Lexington's historic past, but it also threatened the city's financial future. The state forced the issue, demanding that the city decide whether to repair the deteriorating dam—or remove it. The debate splintered the community.
In Virginia, people are continuing to jump into the brewing business because they believe it's easy, exciting and profitable. But there are challenges facing veteran and novice brewers, including a small and hard-to-please consumer base, deceptively long hours and complex state regulations.
Nearly 30 percent of residents in Rockbridge County are over 65, according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. By 2030, that number is expected to reach 34 percent. Retirees face challenges in finding quality health care. They struggle to go where they want on their own. And they are limited in where they can live by their physical needs and what they can afford.
Over the past four decades, elected officials and business owners boasted that they were going to save Buena Vista, the eighth-most fiscally stressed locality in Virginia, according to the state's Commission on Local Government. But disasters, both natural and man-made, have driven industries and businesses away. A developer is giving BV hope, again.
Living in Lexington and Rockbridge County is expensive, and there is a shortage of affordable housing. The median value of an owner-occupied home is $252,500 in Lexington and $197,200 in Rockbridge County. But the median household income is $37,309 in Lexington and $53,918 in the county. Rent isn't cheap either. The median gross rent is $785 per month, according to the Census Bureau.
Young farmers face numerous obstacles in making their dreams come true. Land available for sale or lease is scarce in Rockbridge County. It's also expensive. Once farmers acquire land, they must deal with financial hurdles in securing funding for equipment, animals, feed and the technology required to run a successful farm. Aspiring farmers also must wait to get their starts because older, more established farmers aren't ready to relinquish control.
All refugees are immigrants, but not all immigrants are refugees. The United Nations defines refugees as people with a "well-founded fear" that they will face religious, ethnic, racial or social persecution should they return to their home countries. Two agencies serve the Shenandoah Valley, helping refugees resettle and make new lives for themselves, mainly in Harrisonburg and Roanoke.
Over the past two decades, the Asian population in Rockbridge County has increased by 50 percent practically unnoticed by people who have grown up here and others who are most recent arrivals. The Asian residents of the county are a population without a sense of community in large part because they came from a variety of countries with diverse cultures and religions.
The national conversation about transgender people focuses mainly on access to bathrooms. But it's not the only issue this minority group faces. In Roanoke, Va., a thriving transgender community continues to grow. It's a place where kinship networks replace biological families and drag performance is a form of self-expression. It's also a place where legal protections are few and health care options are expensive. Trans people who live in rural communities have stories to tell. And the truth behind the transgender experience in Roanoke is more complex than access to bathrooms.
The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be a 600-mile long natural gas pipeline that meanders from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina. The proposed route of the 42-inch wide pipeline has not yet been approved, and both supporters and opponents are waiting on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to release its final environmental impact statement in June. A team of reporters explored the social, environmental and economic impacts the project will have on rural Appalachian Virginia.
When Gus Deeds attacked his father, a state senator, with a knife and then shot himself to death in 2013, the tragedy set off a chain reaction of blame and shame among state mental health officials. But it wasn't the first time. Six years earlier, state officials reacted similarly after a mentally ill student went on a rampage at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people before taking his own life. Mental health experts say the Deeds case highlights everything that is wrong with Virginia's reactive mental health care system. What happened to Gus Deeds exposed uneven care, depending on whether a patient lives in a wealthy or poor county. It also revealed a lack of communication between mental health officials and hospitals that can have devastating consequences. It further illustrated that people who need to be hospitalized should not be left on the streets, without care.
Women - young and old, rich and poor - struggle to get the care they need in rural Virginia because of limited options. Lexington lost its last obstetrician/gynecologist almost a decade ago, which has forced women to travel to Fishersville for routine reproductive health checkups. The situation is exacerbated because many doctors don't want to practice in rural areas; they are often burdened with debt after medical school and can't make enough money. For some doctors, operating a private practice in a rural area gives them freedom and flexibility. But they find it increasingly difficult to resist large health systems, such as Augusta and Carilion, which are gobbling up smaller practices, and changing the business of health care.