Loudoun County ‘Taking Steps’ to Resume Potomac River Ferry Service

Loudoun County government is “taking steps” toward reopening ferry service between Montgomery County, MD, and Virginia, according to a statement issued by the county staff Wednesday.

According the press release, the county will study the options for resuming ferry service to Maryland—the latest in a dispute over White’s Ferry, the longtime commuting staple that once carried nearly 800 passengers a day, but which closed after the cable across the river broke in December 2020, and never reopened.

The previous owners of the ferry had also lost a years-long legal battle with the owners of the landing property on the Virginia side, with the court ruling that the ferry lacked legal authority to use the property. That land is part of Rockland Farm. After negotiations between the two produced no result, the White’s Ferry owner sold to entrepreneur Chuck Kuhn.

But those negotiations between Kuhn and the Rockland owners also have stalled, with Kuhn refusing to meet the landowners’ request to pay them 50 cents per crossing and instead making an undisclosed offer for a one-time payment for a permanent easement, according to Rockland Farm. The owners of the landing property warned that Kuhn had threatened that the county government may condemn the property, taking it by force, if Rockland Farm did not accept his offer.

Now, according to the county press release, “Loudoun County will work jointly with Montgomery County to conduct the study of the White’s Ferry’s operations as well as an evaluation of land ownership and acquisition scenarios for the Virginia landing. The study will evaluate short- and long-term possibilities for resuming ferry service.”

According to that statement, the study will look into “roadway access and ferry use along with any other pertinent transportation issues; identifying legal and regulatory requirements associated with ferry operations; landing site improvements and landing location options; and operating alternatives that may include a public/private partnership.”

“The joint study will help evaluate the long-term feasibility and reliability of Potomac River ferry service between Loudoun and Montgomery Counties and help identify alternatives for ferry operations with a common goal of re-establishing daily ferry service that benefits the greater community,” the release adds.

The study is expected to start in the next 30 days and be completed within 90 days after that.

Calls to County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and district Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) were not immediately returned. The press release followed a closed-door meeting of county supervisors at their April 20 meeting, which was described only for the purpose “to consider acquisition of a parcel/parcels of property and to consult with legal counsel and staff members (or consultants) pertaining to actual or probable litigation regarding a parcel/parcels of property for public use in the Catoctin Election District.”

However, supervisors took no public vote after coming out of the closed session.

Libby Devlin, manager of the property and a member of the family that owns Rockland Farm, said she isn’t sure what the press release means.

“I guess I’m glad that they’re going to really look at this thoroughly instead of jumping right into condemning the landing,” Devlin said. “Rockland Farm’s been trying to provide the county with the options for how to get the ferry open, so maybe they’re going to be studying some of those issues as well, and that’s good.”

But, she added, “the fastest way to get the ferry open would be if we could get it open without having to go through condemnation, and just work out some agreement between the private parties.”

9 thoughts on “Loudoun County ‘Taking Steps’ to Resume Potomac River Ferry Service

  • 2021-04-21 at 5:23 pm

    “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

    Those are words you never want to hear. We don’t need government “help” in this matter. Two citizens can hash out their own private affairs with out the “Masters of Loudoun” mucking things up.

    Has the world ended because a few cars have to find alternate routes? Do the interests of these few owners outweigh the rights of the property owner?

  • 2021-04-21 at 6:48 pm

    So after a year the county is starting to look at helping fix the river crossing problem. I guess better late than never. I’m sure they can figure out a way to do a quick claim taking and have the courts work out the cost. Why does it take the county so long to do something that is good. Based on the past lawsuits from the Rockland Estate they just want to be paid big money for doing nothing. Letting them hold commuters hostage is just plain wrong.

    Funny that Rockland Estate wants tons of money paid to them to keep a historic river ferry going. The Brown family, owners of the Rockland Estate, is worth well over $1 Billion but make it sound like they are poor farmers being abused. They want to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for a small sliver of useless land which partially site in the floodplain. They are just greedy looking to make unearned money from the average commuter. They are the family who don’t want Rt 15 widened – well until they can figure out a way to make a buck off it.

    • 2021-04-22 at 6:40 pm

      A bridge makes too much sense and MD refuses to allow one. They can make Rt 15 10 lanes but it still goes into the Pt of Rocks Bridge…two lanes from over 50 years ago!!
      Why a solution can’t be reached is mind boggling! They want to build more houses and more houses are more people on the roads. Duh!
      MD doesn’t want their residents coming into VA to work so no bridge. What a petulant and ridiculous reason!
      That whole section of 15 from Leesburg north is a scary section of road. I go out of my way up to 287 and across if I need to go to Frederick or north…rt 15 is scary.
      All these intelligent elected officials as well as the States themselves, and no one can get a bridge built! What is wrong with this picture!!!

  • 2021-04-21 at 7:42 pm

    Oh how the County does enjoy stepping into matters where they don’t belong.

    I think this is how Loudoun taxpayers ended up buying those houses north of Leesburg.

    Can’t wait to hear how much these “steps” are going to cost us.

  • 2021-04-22 at 4:38 am

    Half-a-buck Chuck must have made large campaign contributions to have the county work to strong-arm a deal for his tourist attraction and personal cash cow. Shame on them.

  • 2021-04-22 at 9:25 am

    “Half -a- buck Chuck.” Good one. That’s gonna’ stick. Pay the 50 cents, and keep Harrison Street out of this. They’ll only make things worse.

    • 2021-04-22 at 11:31 am

      Amen! On all these comments. It’s a tiny piece of landing (on the OPPOSITE side of the COUNTY road) the Brown farm will never use; it’s been in effect for over 100 years; it’s the Golden Rule in full force…he who has the gold (tries to) makes the rules. This whole thing is FUBAR!

      Mr. Kuhn makes many magnanimous gestures but don’t think for a moment that it isn’t all in his best interests!

      If he was on the BOS we’d probably be out of debt as he is one very astute businessman.

  • 2021-04-22 at 12:03 pm

    If the government is going to seize the land, they need to also seize the ferry. A business should not have this kind of power over a person’s land.

    The real answer is that they need to build a bridge at rt 28 and 7 so rt 15 isn’t as necessary.

  • 2021-04-23 at 4:39 am

    The daily-use number of cars per day has increased, while reporting in the news, to support the false narrative that this is a transportation issue. It is a tourist folly and cash cow, albeit not the usual Kuhn datacenter project. The number has climbed by 200 since “half-a-buck Chuck” started strong-arming county puppets to get involved. Maybe an automatic car counter should have been used decades ago to support the now ballooning claim of use and, of course, to report actual income to the taxing authorities. Oddly, “half-a-buck Chuck” says “no” to an automatic car counter because it is “too difficult” and therefore, cannot pay a per car fee. What are the real numbers of use by Loudouners as a “transportation” artery and how will the county determine the historic number when such records have not been produced or apparently kept?

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