The thought of selling Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens is a hard one for Bryan Zimmerman to face.
Though he’s been considering selling “off and on” for a number of years now, Zimmerman finally put the For Sale sign in front of the 24-acre property Friday, just before the annual Art Bloom Festival on the May long weekend.
All weekend, artists, vendors and festival attendees were asking Zimmerman why he put the property on the market. He says it wasn’t an easy choice, but upkeep of the property is an enormous amount of work, especially at 74 years of age.
“I do it all and I’m just stubborn enough not to want to hire anybody to do it,” he says with a grin, noting he’s very particular about how he likes things done in the gardens. “So, I’ve always handled it and if I can’t handle it — well, I can still do it but I find myself sitting a little more these days.”
The property features a series of winding pathways through forest with clearings and water features throughout, and Kitty Coleman Creek, (the namesake of the gardens), running through. Fountains, sculptures, benches, and all sorts of plants and trees — many of which are native — are spread all over the gardens, including well over 3,000 rhododendron bushes. Zimmerman does nearly all the work by hand, even spreading mulch on the lengthy network of trails via wheelbarrow, so as not to disturb the natural state of the land with heavy equipment. Equipment like excavators is used only when absolutely necessary.
Readily admitting the gardens have been an “obsession” for the past 20 years, Zimmerman says he will do what he can to ensure anyone who buys the property intends to keep the garden portion.
“It would be super for a retreat,” he says. “Or, I’d like the Regional District to buy it and keep it as a park, and run events and things out of it — do something along those lines to keep it intact.”
Whether a sale happens or not, Zimmerman says the well-known Artisans’ Festival will still go ahead as planned on Labour Day weekend.
As for the Christmas events, such as visits with Santa in the Santa’s Barn, he isn’t sure if they will continue in 2014, but he says he is sure they will be missed.
“I have people coming in that their parents brought them into Santa’s Barn years ago, now they’re bringing their kids, and it’s just, Santa’s Barn is a real tradition that is really going to be missed big time,” he says, noting he’s very thankful to everyone who supported the garden over the years.
Zimmerman and his wife of 50 years, Beverley, have a place in Rincon de Guayabitos, Mexico, just north of Puerto Vallarta, where they intend to spend more time in the colder months.
He says leaving the Comox Valley entirely is not in their plans though, and they would likely look for a small acreage here.
Zimmerman bought the property at Kitty Coleman 36 years ago, and had a Christmas tree farm there for years before he started developing the extensive gardens.
Although putting the Woodland Gardens on the market was a hard choice for Zimmerman, he says parting ways with the property is something that will have to happen eventually.
“You’re only here for so long, and you’re only a custodian of the land — you don’t own it, you can’t take it with you — so it’s just a matter of course,” he says.
“All good things must come to an end sometime.”
For more information about Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens, visit www.woodlandgardens.ca.
As ALR land, buyer needs ALC approval
The owners of Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens, Bryan and Bev Zimmerman, have put their 24 acres north of Courtenay up for sale.
The asking price is $2.5 million. “They struggled with the decision to sell for over a year,” realtor Claire Storie said.
“It’s a beautiful piece of property. It’s unique. I would think it would require a unique buyer.”
The property falls within the Agricultural Land Reserve, which means the buyer needs approval from the Agricultural Land Commission if he or she wishes to subdivide. Normally, applications are made through the Transportation Ministry but ALR properties initially need commission approval for non-farm use, said Alana Mullally, manager of planning for the Comox Valley Regional District.
The ALR is a provincial zone in which agriculture is recognized as the priority use. Farming is encouraged and non-agricultural uses are controlled. It includes private and public lands that may be farmed, forested or vacant land.
“The commission makes some provision for agra-accommodation if someone has property in agricultural production,” Mullally said.
“It’s about units that are related to the agriculture, but from a tourist perspective.”
Like a referral agent, a regional district would provide comment to the commission.
A district board has some ability to reject applications for non-farm use, but Mullally said the commission makes the final decision.