Loudoun County

White's Ferry Stops Operating After Court Ruling

The ferry about 30 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., has operated since 1782

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After more than two centuries on the Potomac, White’s Ferry has stopped river crossings between Maryland and Virginia. The decision comes a month after a Loudoun County judge ruled the ferry’s landing in Virginia is on private property. 

White's Ferry service ended “effective immediately,” White’s Ferry Inc. said in a Facebook post Monday morning. 

Before Monday, mother nature was the only thing keeping White’s Ferry from crossing the Potomac. That changed after negotiations between the ferry’s owner and Rockland Farm in Loudoun County fell through.

The legal saga began in 2004, when the ferry’s owner rebuilt a retaining wall without the farm’s consent. Rockland Farm terminated its agreement with the ferry, but the crossings continued.

The farm sued in 2009, claiming White's Ferry was trespassing and damaging their property. After years of delays, a judge ruled in the farm's favor.

"The Circuit Court of Loudoun County, Virginia has ruled, in the case of Rockland Farm, LLC, et al. v. White’s Ferry, Inc., that no public landing exists on the Virginia shoreline at White’s Ferry Road and the ferry is prohibited from landing at that location in Virginia,” the Facebook post said.

Libby Devlin, general manager of Rockland Farm, said the farm's goal was not to stop crossings altogether.

"We have been trying to engage them in some kind of fair and equitable arrangement to keep the ferry in operation," she said. "We have people come across on the fairy and use our glamping sites. We don’t want to see the ferry closed."

The owner of the ferry operator told News4 he was devastated by the ruling.

Each day the ferry shuttles more than 600 cars across the river. The impact on transportation and local economies has leaders on both sides of the river concerned.

"It will put more cars on already-overloaded Route 15 and make people have to spend more time in traffic," Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk said.

Lawmakers in multiple jurisdictions are trying to chart a way forward.

"This is a dispute between two private entities, but it has major public impact and we are concerned about it. I know Loudoun County is concerned about it and hopefully we can get to a resolution," Andrew Friedson of the Montgomery County Council said.

Devlin said she received many angry comments on social media on Monday, with some people calling for a boycott of her farm.

"I wonder what they would feel if someone was using their property without any compensation or liability insurance," she said.  

Devlin said offers to buy the ferry or lease the land for a fair price were rejected, but she's still willing to negotiate. 

"It is important to note that this legal matter is between a private property owner and the ferry operator and that Loudoun County it not party to the lawsuit," Loudoun County representatives said in a statement released Monday.

The ferry about 30 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., has operated since 1782, Loudoun Now reported.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story. 

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