‘Work it out:’ Loudoun Co. supervisors urge ferry operator, land owner to reach deal

With a new study envisioning what the now-closed White’s Ferry could be, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has encouraged the operator of the ferry and the owner of the landing on the Virginia side of the Potomac River to negotiate a deal on their own.

During a board meeting, which included discussion of the study commissioned by Loudoun and Montgomery County, Maryland, as well as public comment, the supervisors urged the ferry operator and the owner of Rockland Farm to find a way to restart the service, with the government playing a supporting role.

White’s Ferry ceased operations in December 2020, after a Loudoun County Circuit Court decision regarding the ferry’s right to use land on the Virginia side of the river.

Chuck Kuhn, owner of White’s Ferry, has encouraged Loudoun County to purchase the land using eminent domain, and has said the service may not be able to be restarted without it.

Libby Devlin, who owns Rockland Farm, where the Virginia landing is located, has said she has made several offers to Kuhn with no luck.

“In my opinion, we should get a professional mediator, and get everyone in the room,” said Board Chair Phyllis Randall. “We will offer our room upstairs, as neutral ground, and have them try to work it out.”

Supervisor Tony Buffington, of the Blue Ridge District, said if the two sides aren’t able to work toward an agreement, he would support the use of eminent domain: “I believe we need to reopen this regionally important pathway for the public.”

Ashburn supervisor Michael Turner said while Loudoun County is working on plans to widen and improve the segment of Virginia State Route 15, the sole route to bring drivers to the landing located north of Leesburg, he’s not certain the county wants a major influx of cars.

“If we come to the conclusion that ‘No, no, no, it’s not really that important a transportation corridor, and we’d like the private parties to work it out, then eminent domain is off the table. It’s just not an appropriate tool” for acquiring the land, Turner said.

Dulles District Supervisor Matt Letourneau said, when it last ran, White’s Ferry carried approximately 800 vehicles per day, with increased usage on weekends.

“White’s Ferry is a wonderful feature, but it’s a Band-Aid for what the ultimate problem is, and what the ultimate solution is,” Letourneau said, saying Montgomery County lawmakers have been unwilling to discuss a new river crossing: “Not a piece of technology from a hundred years old, but a bridge, or some way to actually cross the river.”

For Maryland residents anxious for alternatives to get to Loudoun County, Letourneau said “the conversation really should be” with elected officials there.

Sterling District Supervisor Koran Saines echoed Letourneau’s skepticism of White’s Ferry playing a role in improving commutes. “It’s a little troubling, with all due respect to our colleagues across the river in Montgomery County, that they’re showing so much interest in this ferry, but are unwilling to tackle the bigger challenge, when we all know what is needed is a new bridge.”

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation will hold a virtual public meeting, Wednesday evening, to discuss the White’s Ferry study, and answer questions.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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