By Liesl Greathouse
MONTROSE—(February 18, 2014) Sally Johnson is a busy woman. In addition to working as the coordinator at the Montrose County Historical Museum, she is also a Weed Warrior and a former board member for the Montrose Botanical Society. While history and gardening may seem very distinctive from one another, Johnson works to combine those two passions into one interesting life.
At the Museum, Johnson oversees everything from collections to volunteers to the daily operations. She loves finding new artifacts and learning about them. “No work gets done if I start digging in stuff,” she said. “It’s great to hold something from 1882 or to read newspapers from long ago and see what tidbits they wrote back then.”
Johnson considers the Museum important to the community for its historical use. “Everybody needs to know the roots of Montrose,” Johnson said. “They need to know our history for the future, including where our water came from, how the town was built and the pioneers’ struggles.”
As part of the Botanical Society, Johnson works as a Weed Warrior, a volunteer that works to keep the gardens in shape by weeding, dead-heading, planting and doing other tasks as needed. She also helps with fundraisers. “I love always learning something,” she said. “I love the people I work with in Weed Warriors and seeing the results of a plan come together.”
Johnson believes that the Gardens provide a benefit to the community by being an educational garden. “People who are new to the area can come and see what plants grow well here, whether in shade, in sun or with moderate water,” Johnson explained. “Plus people can stroll through and the view is absolutely beautiful.”
Even though the Museum and Gardens may seem to occupy opposite ends of the spectrum, there are actually ways of tying the two together. “In the new Valley Garden extension at the Botanical Gardens we are including a Gunnison Tunnel-type of water feature,” Johnson said. “That ties the Gardens with local history and how without the Tunnel we could not grow what we can today.”
Johnson has been active in helping to plan special events for both places, as well as looking at future ideas.
Special events at the Museum this year will include the Annual Pioneer Social, this year honoring the DeJulio family and their history in Montrose. At the end of April will be the annual yard sale and in September, people can look forward to Glow-In-The-Dark Disc Golf. “It was exciting last year and it helped younger kids know that the Museum is here and learn about it,” Johnson explained. Johnson will also continue leading her Alley Walks, Ghost Walks and Cemetery Walks to help give people a different view of Montrose.
There is also the idea of offering the Museum as a venue for receptions, family reunions or other events. “Last year we hosted a group of retired teachers after hours,” Johnson said. “We had a special presentation and tour for them. This is a unique venue for people. It’s different and has fun things to do.”
This year, the Botanical Gardens will not have their annual plant sale, however there is discussion about having lighting in the Gardens for a Christmas event. The Gardens will continue to work on being an excellent and unique venue for weddings, photographers and receptions.
Johnson’s interests in gardening and history come quite naturally. Her mother and grandfather both had green thumbs, so when Johnson moved to Montrose in 1994, just as the Botanical Gardens had started, she jumped right in. Johnson also grew up in museums. Her parents had one and Johnson grew up helping in everything and fostering a natural curiosity for history.
Johnson wants to correct the misconceptions that people have about the Museum and the Gardens. “The Gardens are called ‘the hidden treasure of Montrose’ because people don’t know that it’s here, so I want to get the word out,” she said. “The Museum is called ‘the hidden gem of Montrose’ because people forget that we have it. People think we just have the same displays from years ago, but we are always changing, with something different every time.”
Price is also sometimes an issue, so Johnson wants people to know that the last Saturday of the month is free admission to the Museum with donations, and that there is no entry fee at all for the Gardens.
Johnson challenges people to explore and find the uniqueness of Montrose. “People should get out and find the hidden treasures and gems of our community,” She said. “Look outside your regular routine for something new and you may be surprised.”
The Montrose County Historical Museum is located at 21 N. Rio Grande Ave and is open May to October, Monday – Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Other times by appointment for research. For more information, call 249-2085.
The Montrose Botanic Gardens is located just south of Montrose Pavilion and is open from dawn until dusk. For more information, email email@example.com