LEESBURG, Va. -- A Virginia businessman has reached a deal to purchase a historic cable-drawn ferry operation on the Potomac River that was closed last year because of a land dispute.
Chuck Kuhn and his wife, Stacy, finalized purchase terms for White’s Ferry in Leesburg on Thursday.
The ferry operation between Loudoun County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland was established in 1786 but ceased operations in December. The move came after a Virginia judge said 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.
Kuhn plans to work with Peter Brown, the majority owner of Rockland Farm, along with local officials and the Coast Guard, in an effort to get the ferry reopened.
The purchase terms include the ferry, a store serving ferry passengers, and the Maryland shoreline that supports the ferry operation.
Plans include repairs to the ferry and the property, including new cables, after negotiations with Brown.
Kuhn said the goal is to purchase the Virginia land site or negotiate a permanent easement with Rockland Farm. The ferry could be operational within days of being granted Virginia shore rights.
White’s Ferry is the last remaining ferry crossing on the Potomac River and carried hundreds of vehicles across the river each day before it was shut down.
The previous ferry operators argued that public access to the Virginia landing site was established through an eminent domain case involving Loudoun County in 1871. But the owners of the Rockland property argued 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.
Kuhn is founder and CEO of JK Moving Services, one of the largest independently owned moving companies in the country. His family has been recognized for placing thousands of acres in Loudoun County into conservation easements.