Sheriff adds security to Pumpkin Park

Site opened with no incidents Sept. 28-29

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Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputies Keith Barna and Jeffrey Covalesky with service dog Z, patrolling the grounds of the Morgan Hill Pumpkin Park at Uesugi Farms Sept. 28.

The Morgan Hill Pumpkin Park at Uesugi Farms celebrated its opening weekend Sept. 28-29 welcoming thousands of visitors to the fall fun season.

Among those guests were uniformed Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies walking the grounds to provide security for the family-friendly site at 14485 Monterey Road. The deputies’ presence didn’t come without some persistence on the part of Pumpkin Park Manager Crystal Melton, who wanted to supplement the park’s security team with law enforcement officers. Her request to the sheriff’s office came less than two months after the July 28 mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival that left three people dead and 20 injured.

Melton said when she reached out to the sheriff’s office “early on” in the season as she was planning Pumpkin Park operations, the local law enforcement agency told her they do not allow deputies to work off duty in uniform for a private party.

However, after gaining some media attention, Melton said the sheriff’s office agreed to negotiate with her. For the rest of the Pumpkin Park’s fall season, four uniformed sheriff’s deputies will be walking the park and checking the grounds “at all times” during business hours. The Pumpkin Park’s private security team will also be on duty.

“After the media story broke that the department was not willing to help us…they contacted us and were willing to negotiate,” Melton said. “So we do have a (contract) with them and they have promised to provide us with officers every weekend.”

Melton said the Pumpkin Park’s added expense of paying the sheriff’s deputies is “not cheap,” but it’s worth it. “You cannot put a price on the security a family will feel seeing that uniformed presence,” Melton said.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Low confirmed the office will provide deputies for “supplemental law enforcement services” at the Pumpkin Park for the remainder of the season.

“We have been working with other county entities, including County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, to make sure we keep members of our community safe,” Low said in an email. He added that the sheriff’s office will conduct extra patrol checks at the park throughout the season.

The Morgan Hill Pumpkin Park at Uesugi Farms is open daily through the month of October. The park features a giant corn maze, two miniature trains, scarecrows, a kids’ slide and, of course, thousands of pumpkins in all shapes and sizes.

Melton estimated about 150,000 people visit the Pumpkin Park each fall. On a busy weekend that could include more than 15,000 per day.

Kids from the Adams family stop for a photo with just some of the pumpkins adorning the grounds of the Morgan Hill Pumpkin Park Sept. 28.