New owner will open Sky Ranch in June

The historic four-acre Sierra Sky Ranch Resort, off Highway 41 just north of Oakhurst, is undergoing major upgrades in preparation for a grand re-opening early this summer.

Aung Oo purchased the Sky Ranch and has named Marlo Burghardt general manager and Caryl Carper as food & beverage director.

Oo, a businessman from Miramar, who purchased the Narrow Gauge Inn in 2011, moved his family to California six years ago. He also owns the The Solvang Gardens in Solvang.

After the makeover is complete, the Sierra Sky Ranch will offer 26 beautifully decorated rooms, and new amenities including complimentary Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions, and central air conditioning and heating. Other improvements will include an upgrade to the kitchen, new hard wood floors, carpeting, and fresh paint inside and out.

Oo is keeping the name Sierra Sky Ranch Resort, and the 48-seat restaurant will remain named The Branding Iron Restaurant and Saloon.

“So many fond memories of Sky Ranch are held by Mountain Area residents,” said Burghardt, who also serves as general manger for the Narrow Gauge Inn. “We are all looking forward to being a part of many more great memories that will come with the opening of the ranch. Although the property is going to be beautiful, Mr. Oo and the entire staff will be dedicated to upholding past traditions and honor the history of the ranch.”

“Under the guidance of Chef Travis LeMay, the restaurant will offer a variety of traditional entrees including prime rib, filet mignon, lamb, fresh salmon, scallops, pork chops, burgers, and salads,” Carper said. “We will offer lighter menu items, and sundowner specials, along with an extensive wine list and specialty drinks.”

The Project manager for the Sky Ranch’s upgrades is Steve Parmentier, and his wife Kit is the project designer. Patrice Jensen is the project architect.

The general contractor for the project is Randy Papike Construction, and his business partner and son, Tyler Papike, is the job site foreman.

Oo purchased Sky Ranch from Ted Roache. The purchase price of the property was not disclosed.

Sky Ranch has rich history

According to the Sky Ranch web site, Native Americans (Milwok or Pohonichi tribes) at one time lived on the property. The first recorded settler on the property was William Gash in 1881. Gash sold the property to Henry J. Castor in 1891. Early records refer to the Castor Ranch as being one of the best locations on Lewis Creek, with fine pasture and meadowland, dotted with magnificent old oak trees. During this period the ranch included a slaughterhouse, and supplied food to the logging camps at Sugarpine and Soquel.

In 1917, George Batterson purchased the property and continued to use it as a cattle ranch. During this time the property was referred to as the Batterson Ranch, and the nearby U.S. Forest Service station, Batterson Station, retains the name.

From 1936 to 1939 the pastureland was rented to James Fullmer for summer range. Lester Bissett recalled building Highway 41 from the Westfall Ranger Station to the Batterson Ranch in 1928 to 1930. The highway, now considered the ‘southern entrance’ to Yosemite, was completed in 1933.

Before World War II, the ranch house was used for convalescing tuberculosis patients. During the war it was used as a Rest and Recreation Center for American servicemen.

In 1946 the ranch was converted to a guest facility, and the name was changed to the Sierra Sky Ranch, hosting tens of thousands of visitors from around the world over the years. From 1946 to 1971 Sierra Sky Ranch was owned and operated by Don and Marian Ely. The ranch consisted of more than 400 acres at that time. The pastureland was converted to a golf course in about 1950 - the course does not exist today.

Narrow Gauge Inn opens April 29

Burghardt announced that the Narrow Gauge Inn Restaurant opens at 5 p.m. April 29, with returning Executive Chef Gustavo Alveraz, and Food & Beverage Manager David Leonardo. The restaurant will be open daily.

The Narrow Gauge features 26 rooms with private decks, 80-seat restaurant, the Buffalo Bar, and a seasonal outdoor pool and spa.

Details: Marlo Burghardt, Narrow Gauge, (559) 683-7720, - Sierra Sky Ranch, (559) 683-8040,