What is the genesis of the Foothills Forum Survey? 

In a 2013 coffee chat hosted by the Rappahannock News, Rappahannock County citizens spoke out urging broader, deeper coverage. The nonpartisan nonprofit Foothills Forum formed to meet that demand. Dozens of Rappahannock citizens, been here’s and come here’s, chipped in with time and money. We started with a survey mailed to every household and P.O. Box to establish a baseline sense of our quality of life, the services we rely on and the issues affecting our future.

Why is the nonprofit providing for this coverage in the newspaper?

Because nonprofits have sprung up to help readers get coverage they seek in communities all across America – including Charlottesville Tomorrow just down the road. Because the Rappahannock News remains the best source of reported, vetted and edited news. More important, the survey finds folks are roughly twice as likely to rely on the weekly for their news than all local internet sources.

Why go to the trouble? 

The Foothills survey is a long-term investment in the future, the kind of research governments and businesses wish they could afford to commission. The numbers offer value to elected officials, businesses, educators, parents and service providers. It provides a baseline of information … and can keep the interests of the people in front of local media.

Now what?  

Publishing the results is a beginning, not the end. The lead professional, Dr. Tom Guterbock of the University of Virginia, says a good survey leaves many questions unanswered. When 92.1 percent say they value privacy and want to be left alone, it begs for detail and depth.

If these results help any of the above make more informed decisions, then we’ve made a valid contribution. If they get people talking about and acting on Rappahannock’s present and future concerns, that’s valid, too.

Part Two of the three-part newspaper series takes a deeper look at the 25 issues and what they mean. Part Three focuses on the quality of life questions and sentiment toward countywide services.

Foothills Forum has commissioned experienced, in-county professionals to report on the deeply complex reasons behind our gaps in internet and cell phone service. A college intern will spend the summer reporting on the survey’s findings.