KERHONKSON – Early morning snow did not get in the way of opening day at Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, which welcomed back guests for the first time since the resort closed suddenly last fall.
As families pulled up to the lobby to check in, they were greeted by staff wearing cowboy costumes and on horseback. Many out-of-town guests were repeat visitors with children on spring break in areas like Westchester County and New Jersey.
At around 2 p.m., much of the snow had melted and the sky cleared as families made their rounds, checking out all the improvements at the 150-acre resort at 30 Cherrytown Road.
Pine Ridge owner Mike Offner and two unnamed investors spent close to $1 million to renovate the outdated facilities on the property formerly operated by Ulster County businessman David O’Halloran, who died in an accident last spring in the Bahamas.
His family could no longer keep the resort going, and the tourist attraction’s future was uncertain after it was shuttered in September.
Offner, a 37-year-old Westchester County native, bought the property along with two business partners in January.
The former barn manager led the effort last fall to rescue the ranch’s 34 horses, which had been transported to an auction house in Monticello after the former Pinegrove Ranch and Family Resort closed. Offner relocated 16 of the horses to Oak Tree Farm in Ulster Park and made sure the other half was sold safe homes.
In a six-week period, Offner hired back most of the staff and brought in local contractors to perk up the guest rooms and lobby. He also added 25 horses to the herd and has introduced new riding experiences.
At Monday’s “soft opening,” 105 guests had come to the ranch for a multi-day stay, occupying 34 of the rooms, which have been upgraded with new beds, flooring and bathrooms.
Offner said the ranch only picked up an inch of snow on Monday morning, and the guests weren’t deterred by the early storm.
“It wasn’t a big deal for anybody,” he said. “The weather just made it more memorable for everyone, and opening day was a huge success. Everybody enjoyed all the changes, and we had a campfire later in the night. I was very happy. I thought it went great.”
Bill Davey, who has been visiting the ranch since 1971, called the ranch his “home away from home.”
“I was 16 years old when I first came, and I am now going to be 63,” he said. “I used to come up here with my cousins…to ride horses and run around like crazy kids.
“Back in the 1970s, you couldn’t put a family of six or eight on plane to go to Disney World. You just didn’t have the money to do things like that, so we came to the dude ranches, and it was the greatest thing that ever happened to us.”
Davey now brings his grandchildren to the resort that dates back to a day when tourists often took their families to the Catskill Mountains for summer retreats.
“This is the fourth generation to come here,” Davey said. “We’re animal lovers, and we enjoy doing it and can’t get enough of it.”
Other families, like Danielle Reinisch’s, had also made their yearly pilgrimage back to the ranch. Reinisch said she was saddened to learn that the ranch had closed last year and kept her fingers crossed it would reopen.
“I’m happy it still has the western cowboy theme,” said the Columbus, N.J. teen and avid horse lover.
“I like the trail here because it’s not like walking around in the parking lot. You’re in the woods…and you have the nice trails that you can follow along. It’s cool.”
The ranch will be holding its grand opening on Memorial Day weekend with many planned activities and a fireworks display.