Gibsons loses one of its iconic floating gardens to tax dispute

"Millions of pictures" have been taken of Liz Williams' garden next to ferry dock

Gibsons Harbour will be a little less colourful this summer.

Liz Williams, the owner and head gardener of the well-known flower barges moored at Gibsons Harbour, decided to let one go this year.

Williams has been “fighting town hall,” as she calls it, since BC Assessment declared her houseboat and two floating gardens property – in the same class as non-motorized float homes – and added them to the Town of Gibsons tax roll.

She has refused to pay and faced the possibility of a tax sale, although the town has never acted on it.

Gibsons chief administrative officer Emanuel Machado said the town has worked with Williams to lower assessments and reduce the tax owing on the barges through the homeowner grant.

Williams said she’ll turn 70 this year and decided she doesn’t want to deal with the aggravation of the tax dispute and getting rid of the largest of the two garden barges was one way to deal with it.

The barge was towed off by its new owners early Tuesday, after volunteers helped her get ready for the move. It took about six days to dismantle the 400-square-foot (37-square-metre) garden that was created over 15 years.

“I was kinda sad,” she said. “But everything just fell into place.”

Williams doesn’t want to reveal where the barge was taken, but said it found a good home with a family she knows well who plan to add it to a “sort of floating summer camp” the avid boaters have elsewhere in Howe Sound.

Many of the plants were adopted by a gardener friend who will replant them at a large waterfront property where he maintains the grounds. Williams said it’s “one of the most beautiful spots on the Coast.” Others were taken by Williams’ brother for his home in Sechelt, and some went to friends living on Gambier and Keats islands.

Williams didn’t take any payment for the barge or the plants, but she said she expects to save about $400 a month in moorage fees now that she’s down to just Flora, the houseboat, and a smaller barge.

“It’s been kinda weird,” Williams said. “Millions of pictures have been taken [of the barges] over the years – I still hear from people all over the world.”

Williams said while her long-running fight with BC Assessment has been exhausting, it hasn’t diminished her passion for tending the flowering flotilla that catches the eye of visitors and locals every summer.
“I’ve assured people there will be a garden,” she said. “It’ll just be smaller and more exquisite.”

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