Public meeting provides chance to meet new owner of White’s Ferry, get update on reopening plans

A meeting on Wednesday will be an opportunity for the public to meet the new owner of White’s Ferry and hear updates on what’s being done to reopen the historic Potomac River crossing between Montgomery County, Maryland, and Loudoun County, Virginia.

The ferry has been closed since December, following a judge’s decision in a decadelong court case brought by a Virginia property owner.

Maryland officials, including from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, will be present at the meeting organized by the Town of Poolesville Fair Access Committee from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Poolesville Town Hall.

Montgomery and Loudoun counties have been working together on a study of the ferry’s operation since June 23.

The study includes roadway access and ferry use; identifying legal and regulatory requirements with ferry operations; landing site improvements and location options; alternatives such as a public-private partnership; and outreach of area stakeholders and other ferry operators in other locations.

There will be a study report with recommendations that is expected to be finalized in late September. The final report will look at past operating data from the previous owner; operating lessons learned from other small ferry operators across the U.S., and input from related organizations, such as the National Park Service and the C&O Canal Trust.

“Restoring the operation of White’s Ferry, to cross the Potomac River between Montgomery County and Loudoun County, is important to reducing travel times for many of our residents,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement.

White’s Ferry, which can be traced to 1786, ceased operations on Dec. 28, 2020, after a judge agreed that the ferry had been trespassing, since the end of a licensing agreement in 2004, on a Virginia property owned by Rockland Farm.

In February, Loudoun County business owner Chuck Kuhn and his wife, Stacy Kuhn, bought the ferry. Chuck Kuhn owns JK Moving Services.

Before shuttering operations, the ferry carried some 600 to 800 vehicles per day across the river and connected bicyclists and pedestrians between Leesburg in Loudoun County and Poolesville in Montgomery County, a news release said.

“The ferry is a critical part of our transportation network, and this study, along with hard work and collaboration by local officials, aims to reopen the ferry in a way the public can count on for the long term,” Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Chris Conklin said in a statement.

Rockland Farm owner Libby Devlin released a statement Wednesday regarding the meeting, saying she was disappointed at not being invited to participate.

“The closure of the ferry is a result of White’s Ferry’s decision not to resume operation. To be clear, Rockland has never closed the ferry: Not when White’s Ferry breached our long-standing agreement in 2004 and not when the Court ruled in November 2020 that White’s Ferry had been trespassing,” the statement said.

Devlin said that Rockland Farm has made numerous proposals to the new owner to “restore ferry service under arrangements fair to both parties, which have been completely disregarded by the Ferry’s owner.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Rockland Farm.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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