It's not just Coastsiders who are lamenting the loss of Arata Pumpkin Farm's beloved hay bale maze this year.
Last week in a blog post for The Almanac, a community news and information service primarily for Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside, Erin Glanville, a Menlo Park resident, writes about how her family noticed a big change at Arata’s: no haunted house and more disappointedly for them, no more big hay bale maze. Instead, there was a small maze through some cornfields, she writes.
“My two older children immediately bee-lined for the hay bale maze … and that's when we noticed a big, unfortunate change. There wasn't one. … Also gone was Arata's spooky Haunted House. What was happening? My kids were clearly disappointed. Where was their beloved maze? Who stole one of the most anticipated parts of their Halloween tradition?”In the blog post titled “Arata Pumpkin Farm And The Grinch(es) Who Stole Halloween (Or At Least Part Of It),” Granville explains that the San Mateo County Agricultural Advisory Committee and county government decided that too much of Arata's farmland land use was being devoted to amusement park like attractions and so the owners had to apply for a coastal development permit. Arata's owner, Chris Gounalakis, applied for an exception to the permit based on "argi-tourism" but was denied.
Glanville, who has visited Arata's during the Halloween season for the past 15 years with her family, makes the point that with these politics and regulatory red-tape, visitors of all ages lose. Venues like Arata’s “bring families out to the farms and to local restaurants and shops and make the process of selecting a pumpkin a true family memory, tradition and celebration,” she writes.
Glanville and commenters on her blog emphasize that it comes down to local government’s land use laws, and finding a balance between preserving agricultural property and uses and creating an environment in which farmers can survive and prosper, that perhaps it's time to amend these antiquated laws.
A Woodside resident in the comments section of the blog post suggests starting a petition to send to the County regarding the loss of agricultural property rights and land use.
Gounalakis is fighting to obtain permission from the county to bring back the hay maze, according to Glanville. Despite approval in year's past, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors warned that the attractions — from train rides and a sword fight arena to a giant steel gorilla statue — would have to be scaled back because they have nothing to do with agriculture.
“When you listen to Mr. Gounalakis talk about this challenge, you quickly understand that his family is more focused on creating memories for other families than they are on making money. He’ll do all he can to overcome "the Grinch" and take back these wonderful Halloween traditions. My family, for one, will be cheering him on.”
What about you?
Read “Arata’s Pumpkin Farm And The Grinch(es) Who Stole Halloween (Or At Least Part Of It)” here.