Loudoun Stories

White’s Ferry reopening delayed over land use deal

The parties involved reportedly are disagreeing over compensation for use of the ferry landing site.

The negotiations between the Kuhn family, which purchased the White’s Ferry operation in Loudoun County after it abruptly shut down back in December, and Historic Rockland Farm, the owners of the ferry landing property, have not progressed as hoped. Now, the Kuhns have announced that they will not be able to resume ferry service starting in April, as originally planned.

“We stand ready and willing to reopen,” said Chuck Kuhn, founder of JK Moving Services, in a a statement released to local media. “We will be seeking more help from the county and state to ensure this vital route serves our community and people.” The statement didn’t elaborate on specifics of the obstacles encountered, but it all reportedly centers on compensation to the owners of Rockland Farm. The ferry landing site on the Virginia shore of the Potomac River is located on their land, as it has been for generations.

According to Libby Devlin,  the farm has been in Devlin’s family since 1817 and the family has deep roots in the area. Ida Lee Rust was Devlin’s grandmother and lived at Rockland Farm. Ida Lee Park in Leesburg was named for her, and the neighboring Rust Library took its name from the family as well.

Historic Rockland Farm is asking for 50 cents per vehicle crossing on the ferry, and has painted their request on a wall on the property. (Image: Historic Rockland Farm)

According to Devlin, Rockland Farm is asking for 50 cents per vehicle as compensation for using its land. When passenger traffic is up, they will make more money, when it is down, they will make less. However, the Kuhn family reportedly wants to pay a single lump sum for a permanent easement to use the ferry landing site.

“The ferry landing has been part of Rockland Farm forever and ever and we hate to give that up,” Devlin said. “And as farmers, we make money off the use of our land. The compensation from the ferry using our land would be very helpful to our farm.”

A historic photo of a previous version of the White’s Ferry boat. (Image: Historic Rockland Farm)

The ferry service across the Potomac River dates back to 1786. Before it closed in December over a dispute between the previous ferry operators and Rockland Farm, White’s Ferry shuttled up to 800 vehicles a day back and forth to Maryland. If an agreement for a use of the land isn’t reached soon, the restart of the ferry service might not happen until 2022, according to the Kuhns. (See our previous coverage on the White’s Ferry issue here.)

Below are the full statements from both the Kuhn family and Historic Rockland Farm.

Kuhn Family Cites Hurdles in Reopening White-converted

Rockland Farm Press Statement 4-7-21

(Image at top: via Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County, MD)

  1. Dig deeper 2 years ago

    Here’s a solution. Give them the 50 cents per vehicle but require it be used to fund reparations to the families of the slaves owned by the Rust family. That is fair.

    • Ann Burchett 2 years ago

      What happened years ago when there were slaves is a part of history and no reparations should be given. It was what life was back then.

  2. Bob Bitchin 2 years ago

    Does anyone else suspect the Rockland Farm is losing money and it’s owners wish to milk the ferry to keep the failing farm afloat.

  3. Stacey H 2 years ago

    What I find interesting, is that from my limited knowledge of White’s Ferry, it’s been operating for many, many years. Is it only now that the landowner on the VA side is saying they need more revenue? Is this an issue (perhaps) from COVID related loss of business on the VA side? It seems like there’s more to this story than what I’m able to find out? If the ferry has been using the VA land for many years and not paying for it’s use, then that should be addressed. If it’s other issues then those should be brought forward. Anyone with some good sources or resources on the back story of this situation (history of how it got started and the arrangement that was set from the beginning)?

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