KERHONKSON–The man who rescued the horses at Pinegrove Ranch and Family Resort will soon be rescuing one of the region’s most beloved tourist attractions.
Mike Offner, the former barn manager at Pinegrove, said on Thursday that he is buying the 600-acre ranch, which closed last September shortly after the untimely death of owner David O’Halloran.
Offner expressed interest last October after he led the effort to rescue 34 of the horses that many believed were doomed for slaughterhouses.
He is being backed by two local investors, whom he would not identify. Offner described them as former clients at the resort who share his passion for the spot.
On Monday, Offner expects to close on the property, which had served for decades as an all-season vacation spot with 126 guest rooms.
Offner said he is looking forward to getting the keys from Sterling National Bank and getting the property ready for a soft opening on April 1.
The plan is to upgrade the grounds, which he is renaming Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, while maintaining the legendary western flavor.
“It’s going to be new, fresh, exciting and modernized. We want this to be a destination, not only for the community to enjoy but for surrounding counties,” Offner said.
“With our prior customer base, it turned into a tradition. So many would come up a couple of times of year and make new lifelong friends. Pinegrove is really like a meeting hub for people to come together from the area, the city and different states.”
While he plans to continue catering to families, scouting groups and senior citizens–the dude ranch’s main client base–Offner is hoping to attract a younger crowd by offering packaged excursions in slower months to tourist attractions like the Tuthilltown distillery in nearby Gardiner.
Operating as a dude ranch since 1971, Pinegrove was known for its horseback riding, outdoor pools and water slides, rock climbing, campfires, line dancing and western hospitality.
Offner, who worked at the property for 14 years, already has created a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pineridgeduderanchny/?pnref=story), picking up more than 1,500 followers since it launched on Jan. 22.
On top of everything, he plans to bring back the 60-80 employees who lost their jobs after Pinegrove closed four months ago. Offner already has reached out to them and said he will be accepting job applications in two weeks.
Under the new ownership, plans include marketing the dude ranch as the site for rustic weddings, making the riding trails more interactive and even offering farm-to-table cuisine that caters to every palate from vegan to gluten-free dishes.
Offner said he is even looking into forming a partnership with the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park to upgrade guest dining options.
Rochester Town Supervisor Mike Baden said he is pleased to see the property land in Offner’s hands.
“He’s told me what his plans are. He wants to modernize it and fix it and really move it forward as a great tourist destination,” Baden said. “I’m just thrilled that he was able to bring it to fruition.”
Offner said after he closes next week, the work will begin in earnest to “deep clean” the property, repair building roofs and sidings and bring in local contractors to fix it up.
While Offner will concentrate on operating the grounds, he will remain very connected to the horses. Of the 16 that were rescued and settled at Oak Tree Farm in Ulster Park, 13 of them will be brought back for horseback riding. Due to age, three have been retired, Offner said.
He will also look into buying more down the road.
For now, Offner is spreading the word via social media that a new day is coming for Pinegrove.
“I kind of kept it quiet, but I expressed interest in June. At that point, it was in chaos mode for a while, but I stayed very consistent. It took so long to work out all the kinks because there’s so many parcels. It was a very complicated transaction, but everybody stayed in it, and we’re excited for our soft opening in April,” he said.
A grand opening at Pine Ridge is planned for later this year.
To follow the ranch’s progress, go to https://www.facebook.com/pineridgeduderanchny/?pnref=story
See related content: http://hudsonvalleynewsnetwork.com/2017/10/22/group-effort-saves-pine-grove-horses/