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Longest running ferry in US at risk of closing after more than 200 years

White's Ferry
Posted at 9:14 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 21:14:19-05

POOLESVILLE, Md. — “I work in Virginia, and have always worked in Virginia. The ferry has always been my way into Virginia,” said Karla Berger, a health care worker at a hospital in Virginia.

But she lives across the Potomac River, in Poolesville, Maryland.

The fastest way for her to get to work is White’s Ferry.

“It is a major transportation link,” said Kerri Cook, the president of the Poolesville Town Council.

“Somewhere between 600 and 800 cars a day,” said Cook.

That’s around 200,000 cars a year. It’s important for a lot of people's commute, just like Berger.

“If the ferry was closed, it would take me, with traffic, on average, an hour and a half to two hours to get home. For 27 miles,” said Cook.

The ferry is closed, indefinitely. That could end an over 200-year run for the longest running ferry in America.

“Not only is it a transportation link, but it’s a historic treasure really, it’s a piece of our American history,” said Cook.

It’s hard to put an exact date on it, but most records have the ferry operating since the 1790s.

“I think it’s fascinating that that thing has been around for so long, through anything and everything,” said Berger.

But now, something may end its legendary run. A land dispute between the ferry owners and a farm in Virginia.

“My father built a wall after Hurricane Isabell took out, there was a wood wall on the Virginia landing and the hurricane took it out and my father built a concrete wall. Apparently that wall encroached on the bank which was not in the 1871 right away,” said Herb Brown, the owner of White's Ferry on an emergency town council meeting.

This landing on the Virginia side is disputed between White's Ferry and Rockland Farms. Rockland Farms claims the ferry landing encroaches on their property, and so far, the courts agree.

Both the ferry and the farm released statements acknowledging the ruling. But as for a solution, that's turned into a battle of public opinion.

"A land dispute closes it all, like that's crazy. In my eyes, probably a 50 to 100 foot plot of land. That's it," said Berger.

But the squabbling doesn’t help Berger. The new commute means she’s too far away to be on call for the hospital.

“If nothing changes, we will have to move most likely,” said Berger.

And the squabbling won’t save the historic ferry, the longest running in America. Berger says there is no concrete plan to save it yet, but she and other officials say they're hopeful they can work with Rockland Farms to come up with a solution

“We’re all very hopeful that we can help urge some kind of resolution and negotiation so that they will be able to reopen soon,” said Cook.