Statement of the Fair Access Committee for Western Montgomery County Upon the Three-Year Anniversary of the White’s Ferry Closure
Three years ago this week, the main link connecting the western artery of Poolesville and the Agricultural Reserve to nearby Virginia, White's Ferry, was suddenly closed. Few at the time thought the ferry closure would be long-lived. After all, the ferry has operated for most of the last nearly 250 years without fail. Despite an intensive three-year commitment to solve the impasse by the Poolesville and Western County community (as well as several Maryland elected officials), all efforts have failed. White's Ferry remains closed with no end to the stalemate in sight.
White's Ferry represents so many things to the Poolesville area. Our community is the most affected by its prolonged shuttering. Ferry operations are “living history”, representing what our rural community was and, in some ways, remains today. White's Ferry is the only remaining river ferry running on the Potomac out of more than 100 that once operated. It is a true historic treasure, and its location outside of our Nation’s Capital, alongside George Washington’s C&O Canal, makes it a national treasure as well.
White's Ferry is part of our area’s culture and helps define what our Ag Reserve and rural lifestyle is all about. Alongside other efforts, like focused farming support, agri-tourism measures, and the Rustic Roads program, White's Ferry helps support the Ag Reserve. Combined, these programs and policies define and contribute to the continuation of a vital and historically rural space in Montgomery County, Maryland that benefits the entire Washington area.
Beyond its historical and cultural significance, White's Ferry also makes life more convenient and safer for so many who live in the region who are far from many important services, such as doctors. The ferry serves as a "cross-pollinator" transportation resource for those who commute between the vital medical services and tech business communities located in Montgomery and Loudoun counties. The ferry also helps preserve the Ag Reserve by metering traffic, keeping it from growing out of control. It serves as a vital underpinning for the small and family-owned businesses that help the Ag Reserve economy thrive by helping visitors travel to the area.
Unfortunately, the wealthy private landowners involved in the ferry operations have been allowed to block solutions that don’t check every single box they feel is important to their own self-interests. While often touting the importance of the public interest, their failure to work together has demonstrated the hollowness of their commitment to the communities and people affected by its closure. It is especially ironic since in this case, the public interest in seeing the ferry operating again aligns with what should be the personal interests of the two parties in seeing traffic move and revenues flow. The fact that this has not proven true suggests the ferry owner and Virginia landowner have no incentives nor feel a truly urgent need to really compromise and work together.
A private and needless dispute has been allowed to stop what is a vital public service. Political leaders in Maryland and Montgomery County have tried to help, but the lack of unity and the unwillingness of leaders all the way up the leadership chain on both sides of the river to use their powers and authority to demand a solution is a failure of government to lead.
It has been clear for a long time that the private negotiation process is bankrupt and has no credibility. This situation can only be resolved by government stepping in, leading and taking charge. This public service must never again be held hostage to private parties who refuse to put the interests of thousands of affected citizens ahead of their own.
Our community is beyond frustrated. We feel betrayed in many ways. We have too many priorities in our area that need our attention. This one should have been solved a long time ago.
Moving forward, we will always see the Ferry as a vital aspect of our community, history, and culture, and we would dearly like to see it running again. Absent clear and strong government leadership and intervention, the current process will not lead to a successful outcome. We won’t let its failure define us and our community. We will continue the many other projects we know are important to making life better in the Western County.
About Fair Access Committee for Western Montgomery County
The Fair Access Committee is comprised of Western Montgomery County, Md. residents who represent the interests of students, parents, senior citizens, farmers, and non-profit organizations supporting fair access to facilities and services provided elsewhere in the County. For more information on Fair Access for Western Montgomery County, visit www.poolesvillemd.gov/fairaccess