According to Money Magazine’s August issue, the 89th best small town in America is Cave Spring, Va.
Huh? Cave Spring is a small town? It’s a fine place to live, I’m sure, but a small town?
Money does this every year. They compile a list of America’s best places to live, and this year they chose to focus on small towns. They define that as “U.S. towns that have a population of 8,500 to 50,000.”
Cave Spring, according to the U.S. Census, had about 25,000 people in 2007.
But is a town only about a population count? That word, for me, conjures the image of a mini-municipality, with a Main Street and demi-downtown, rows of houses, and probably in rural surroundings. That’s not Cave Spring, but that’s only one subjective definition. Towns also typically have governments and borders. Cave Spring has neither.
In other words, it lacks the kind of independence and apart-from-the-worldness that a phrase like “small town” connotes.
The Census Bureau has a word for a spot like Cave Spring. They call it a “place.”
All this goes to the meaning of Money’s findings. Per the magazine, they looked at the economy, jobs, crime, affordability of homes, how many things there are to do, schools, health care, diversity, weather and more.
It’s certainly valid to look at something where there’s a definitive answer for Cave Spring alone, like population and diversity. Money discarded towns that were 95 percent white or more. Cave Spring, according to the census, is 92 percent white.
You can certainly determine a crime rate or housing affordability for an area like Cave Spring, too.
But how do you evaluate the economy in a suburb like Cave Spring where few people work where they live? Does it make sense to talk about the economy of Cave Spring alone, when it’s really just part of the larger economy of the Roanoke Valley?
And how do you evaluate the quality of health care in Cave Spring, when really you’re talking about the quality of health care in the whole valley?
Even the schools are part of a larger system that serves both suburbs and rural enclaves.
“Lots to do” there? Well, it’s hard to tell how many people in Cave Spring limit their search for things to do to their neighborhood, but my guess is they get off their own street at least once in a while for shopping, entertainment, the arts, dining.
Oh, and you have to have a major airport within 60 miles. Congratulations, Roanoke Regional Airport. Money thinks you’re major.
Not to take anything away from Cave Spring or the folks who live there. Not at all. If a major magazine says part of the Roanoke Valley is one of the best places to live in the whole country, that’s something to be proud of.
But when you really look at the criteria, part of what makes Cave Spring a great place in Money’s assessment, is the bigger place that Cave Spring is part of.
That’s something the whole Roanoke Valley can brag on.