When the Kuhn family purchased Whites Ferry in February, they held out hope of quickly reestablishing the transportation link with Maryland. However, it now appears the crossing won’t reopen this year as the battle over paying the Virginia landowners to use their property continues.
The ferry shut down in late December following a cable break and the conclusion of a years-long legal battle with a ruling that it lacked legal authority to use its Virginia landing. Negotiations with Rockland Farm, the site of the Virginia landing, on a fee to use the landing produced no result.
After purchasing the business, Chuck Kuhn, the founder and CEO of JK Moving Services, said he hoped to restart the service within weeks. Now he said it may be 10 months before operations can resume.
“We stand ready and willing to reopen. The ferry has ramifications for our local economy and the livelihoods of many people, from technology workers to retail employees to farm workers,’ Kuhn stated. “The former ferry owner Herb Brown and his team have been a pleasure to work with as have all the municipalities and states—all of which are interested in protecting this important transportation route. We will be seeking more help from the county and state to ensure this vital route serves our community and people.”
But Libby Devlin, manager of the property and a member of the family that owns Rockland Farm, said her family is fighting strong-arm tactics to take their land. Devlin said the family asked for 50 cents per vehicle as compensation for using the land, with the Loudoun County government offering to maintain a count of the vehicles.
“Instead, Mr. Kuhn continued to push for a permanent easement and threatened to convince County, State, and Maryland officials to pursue condemnation of the Virginia landing if Rockland did not agree to his offer for a permanent easement,” reads a statement from Rockland Farm published April 7. “Mr. Kuhn gave a deadline of 5:00 PM on Friday, March 26th for Rockland to agree to his terms. Mr. Kuhn’s offer for a permanent sale or easement came to a tiny fraction of the 50-cents-per vehicle fee that Rockland is seeking as compensation for the use of its landing.”
“He’s been really putting a lot of pressure on state, county and Maryland officials to condemn our landing, and says that we will get very little if we don’t take his offer and we risk condemnation,” Devlin said. […] We don’t want to give up permanent rights to the property, because it’s been part of Rockland farm forever and ever, and it’s just part of the history here. It’s sort of sacred ground to us, and again we were hoping for an ongoing stream of income to help support the agricultural use.”
“Rockland remains open to working with White’s Ferry, County and State officials to get the ferry operating again but insists on fair compensation for the ongoing use of its landing,” the statement concludes.
Established in 1786, the ferry remains a significant transportation route between Maryland and Virginia, carrying nearly 800 daily users when operational. It is the only Potomac River crossing between the American Legion Bridge and Point of Rocks.