Heart-J Stories: The Future of Sylvan Dale Ranch

Would you like to be part of the future of Sylvan Dale Ranch and Heart-J Center? See below for how you can help!

The Future of Sylvan Dale Ranch
by Laura Armstrong, Heart-J Center Executive Director

Carol Johnson has been coming to Sylvan Dale with her family for more than 60 years. Watch Carol's video and read on to join Carol in supporting the vision for the future of Sylvan Dale Ranch!

Hi! My name is Carol Johnson. I've been coming to Sylvan Dale Ranch for more than 60 years.

This beautiful place has been my family’s home away from home since I was 18 months old. It holds a piece of my heart.

Here’s me on the merry go round during our first visit in August 1960. And here’s me in 1961, with Susan (Jessup), my favorite babysitter ever.

I always felt like Sylvan Dale was MY place. So when I'd arrive in the summer and find that anything had changed, I'd get just a little bit angry. One year the merry-go-round was replaced with a fancy Carousel -- I was 8 years old and I was MAD!

It's true that change is hard and that's especially true when it affects a place we love. I think we all felt devastated and helpless when the Ranch was hit by floods in 1976 and again in 2013.

So much damage bringing so much change.

And we all cheered for the Jessups as they fought back and kept moving forward, keeping our special place alive. So when I heard that the Jessups were working to secure the future for the Ranch by donating Sylvan Dale to the Heart-J Center to be run as a nonprofit organization, I wanted to know more. I realized the importance of planning for the future, but I have to admit I was still conflicted.

On the one hand, it sounded like the Heart-J Center was doing really great things -- serving kids and veterans, and coming up with all kinds of educational programs to teach all the amazing things about Sylvan Dale.

On the other hand, since change is hard and this is my favorite place on Earth, I got more than a little bit scared. Are all the things I love about Sylvan Dale going to disappear? What about dude ranch vacations and horses and campfires, and Cow Camp?

I’m here at Sylvan Dale this week and I have some really good news to share with you. I’ve had the chance to talk to Susan and to sit down with Laura from the Heart-J Center. Now that I understand the vision for the future, I wanted to tell you how excited and relieved I am.

Let’s talk about what’s staying the same.

The dude ranch experience will continue. The fun, loving and supportive atmosphere. The wonderful food and the incredible people.

The activities we love -- fishing, hiking, rock climbing, s’mores at the campfire, trail rides, gymkhana games, Cow Camp, softball night, swimming, throwing rocks in the river … all the things our family has loved to do together over the years will still be offered.

At the same time, Heart-J Center will add opportunities that keep the Ranch busy year round with classes and retreats based on the things that make Sylvan Dale so unique ... the wildlife and natural landscape. The history. The horses and cattle. Getting people outdoors. And all kinds of art classes that will use the beauty and wonder of the Ranch for inspiration.

This vision for the future means that the Ranch will stay open! My family and yours can keep coming home to Sylvan Dale.

One thing I learned this week is that Sylvan Dale is doing GREAT this year – dude ranch vacations were sold out the entire summer and they’ve hosted more than 40 weddings already this year. It’s the busiest the Ranch has been in years!!!

But, we need Heart-J Center strong and steady as well, so it can be ready to take on the responsibility of the Ranch when the time comes.

Heart-J Center had huge plans for 2020 but COVID led to the cancellation of over 100 programs, with a loss of income of $75,000.

Let’s work together and raise that $75,000 to make up for the Heart-J Center's lost program income. Let’s show the Jessup family that we love Sylvan Dale and we believe in their vision for the future of this incredible place.

I’m kicking off this fundraiser with a $5,000 donation.

I make my donation in honor and memory of my daughter, Christy.

Please join me in supporting Heart-J Center and embracing the vision for the future of Sylvan Dale!

There's a space on the donation box to make a comment.

I'd love to hear your favorite things about Sylvan Dale, so please make your donation and share a memory.

Thank you for making a difference for this place we love!

With gratitude, Carol Johnson

You Can Make a Difference!

If you'd prefer to make your donation by check, please make your check out to Heart-J Center and mail to PO Box 2736, Loveland, CO 80539.

Thank you!

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *