3 years after White’s Ferry closed, Md. group feels ‘betrayed’

White’s Ferry stopped running on Dec. 28, 2020 after a stalemate between then-ferry owner Herb Brown and Libby Devlin, owner of Rockland Farm, which is the landing site in Virginia.(WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

On the third anniversary of the shutdown of historic White’s Ferry, which runs between Montgomery County, Maryland, and Loudoun County, Virginia, people on the Maryland side of the Potomac River say they feel “beyond frustrated” and “betrayed,” that the ferry remains closed with “no end to the stalemate in sight.”

White’s Ferry stopped running on Dec. 28, 2020 after a stalemate between then-ferry owner Herb Brown and Libby Devlin, owner of Rockland Farm, which is the landing site in Virginia. The two had failed to reach an agreement to resume service. The ferry was established in 1786.

“White’s Ferry represents so many things to the Poolesville area,” wrote the Fair Access Committee for Western Montgomery County in a news release marking the anniversary. “Our community is the most affected by its prolonged shuttering.”

The group said “White’s Ferry is part of our area’s culture and helps define what our (agricultural) reserve and rural lifestyle is all about.” In addition, “the ferry serves as a ‘cross-pollinator’ transportation resource for those who commute between the vital medical service and tech business communities located in Montgomery and Loudoun counties.”

Chuck Kuhn and his wife, Stacy, bought the ferry in February 2021, with hopes of resuming service. But in a March statement, Kuhn said a combined $1.1 million offer from Kuhn and Montgomery and Loudoun counties to buy 1.4 acres on the Virginia side of the river was rejected by Rockland Farm.

Devlin has insisted upon a 50-cent per car fee, to allow the ferry’s vehicle traffic — approximately 600 to 800 vehicles per day, according to the county staff report — to use the farm’s land.

“Unfortunately, the wealthy private landowners involved in the ferry operations have been allowed to block solutions that don’t check every single box that they feel is important to their own self-interests,” wrote the group, who say they are “beyond frustrated,” and “feel betrayed in many ways.”

In the most recent public discussion of the ferry, on Oct. 16, Kuhn and Devlin told the Transportation and Environment Committee of the Montgomery County Council that they both remain committed to getting the ferry running again.

“This situation can only be resolved by government stepping in, leading and taking charge,” the Fair Access Committee said. “This public service must never again be held hostage to private parties who refuse to put the interests of thousands of affected citizens ahead of their own.”

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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