'We really want the ferry open:' Hundreds protest over White's Ferry continued closure

White’s Ferry, which carries passengers and cars across the Potomac between Maryland and Virginia, has been shut down for two years now. On Thursday, locals gathered to send a message to politicians that it is hurting the community. 

"We really want the ferry open," said Poolesville resident Carol Hill. "We really miss not having it, I think it really hurts the businesses. It takes so much longer for my grandchildren to come visit me." 

White’s Ferry has been operating since 1786, shuffling passengers, cars and bikes across the Potomac river between Loudoun County, Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland. That makes it older than the United States Constitution. But for two years, ferry trips have stopped completely – all over a land disagreement.

Hundreds of Maryland residents on Thursday banded together to send a message to Maryland politicians that the ferry is still essential. Speakers reminded representatives from local, state, and federal government that life without the ferry is hurting local businesses, not to mention sometimes quadrupling commutes. Poolesville’s Chamber of Commerce President Tom Kettler estimates businesses are losing 20% of their revenue.

The disagreement is between the ferry owner in Maryland and the landowner in Virginia where the ferry docks across the river. A court ruled in 2020 that the ferry trespassed on the private Virginia land when it expanded its landing. 

The Maryland landowner was not present on Thursday. 

Libby Devlin owns the land in Virginia. She says her family has worked hard to find a reasonable solution including proposing a 50 cent per vehicle fee in exchange for access to her family’s land. Devlin also says they’ve offered to buy the Maryland land and work with an outside company to get the ferry running again. Both sides have still not reached an agreement. 

Now locals here in Poolesville are urging politicians to find a solution and get both sides back to the negotiating table.

County Executive Marc Elrich says he understands negotiations are at least moving and not at a standstill. He was open to the idea of a tax that would for example add 50 cents per car for each ride to pay for access to the Virginia landing.