Historic Virginia ferry operation ends amid property dispute

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — Government officials in northern Virginia are bemoaning the closing of the last remaining ferry crossing on the Potomac River.

The operators of White’s Ferry announced Monday on Facebook that they were ending the cable-drawn ferry operation between Montgomery County, Maryland and Loudoun County, Virginia, effective immediately.

A ferry has operated at that location since the late 1700s. The ferry in recent years has transported hundreds of vehicles a day between Maryland and Virginia

The decision to end operations came after a Virginia judge ruled last month that the ferry company had no right to use a parcel of land on the Virginia side of the river as a landing site. The ruling came in a decade-old lawsuit over the so-called Rockland Farm property. At issue was whether there was a public right of access to the Virginia landing site.

The ferry company argued that public access was established through an eminent domain case involving Loudoun County in 1871. But the owners of the Rockland property argue that the 1871 case involved property that was north of the current landing site. They filed a lawsuit in 2009 alleging that the ferry operators had violated a 1952 licensing agreement with their predecessors by removing a retaining wall in 2004 and replacing it with another wall farther from the shoreline.

The judge found the ferry company liable for trespass, damage to property and breach of contract.

Loudoun County officials issued a statement Monday saying that Rockland Farm and White’s Ferry had been negotiating the ferry’s continued use of the private property since the court ruling before White’s Ferry decided to cease operations.

“While Loudoun County is not party to the legal dispute, the county remains concerned about the outcome from a regional transportation perspective,” the statement read.

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