"Poppypocalypse" Update: Agencies Prepare for Supersized `Super Bloom' Crowds in Lake Elsinore Again

Mar 23, 2019

Local officials promise a much more organized poppy-watching experience this weekend than last weekend's onslaught of natural wonder-seeking visitors to the Lake Elsinore area shown here.
Credit Screenshot / KTLA 5 Los Angeles

LAKE ELSINORE (CNS) - Sunshine and rolling hills blanketed in eye- catching wildflowers are expected to draw major crowds to Lake Elsinore today (Saturday),
as more people seek to see the ``Super Bloom'' up close, while public safety agencies work to keep traffic moving and hazards to a minimum.
   On Thursday, officials announced a coordinated strategy to mitigate the influx of people likely to converge on Walker Canyon today and Sunday.
   ``The Super Bloom has created significant challenges for the community
and shown the world the natural beauty of Lake Elsinore,'' Mayor Steve
Manos said. ``Together, we want to make this a much more manageable
experience.''
   The acres of orange and yellow poppies carpeting hillsides in Walker
Canyon, thanks to heavy winter rains, were unlike anything he'd ever seen,
Manos said, acknowledging that social media buzz had raised interest to a level
no one could have anticipated.
   Last weekend became chaotic when sightseers -- by one estimate, 50,000
people at any given time -- swamped Lake Elsinore to trek into the canyon
from Lake Street to take pictures and video, as well as walk in the poppy
fields. Public safety officials completely closed access to the canyon Sunday
after city roads turned into virtual parking lots, and one city employee who
was attempting to direct traffic was clipped by a hit-and-run driver, suffering
minor injuries.
   The mitigation plan this weekend incorporates full road closures,
limited access routes and an expanded shuttle service to contain traffic and
pedestrian volumes.
   Riverside County sheriff's Capt. Michael Lujan said segments of Lake
Street and Nichols Road will be restricted, with no through traffic. He added
that no pedestrian or vehicle traffic will be permitted to enter Walker Canyon.
   A shuttle service will be available between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., with
buses retrieving people every few minutes from a dirt parking lot adjacent to
the Nichols Road exit from northbound Interstate 15, and at the Lake Elsinore
Outlets Mall for people exiting I-15 from the south, officials said.
   According to Caltrans spokesman Catalino Pining, changeable overhead
message signs along I-15 and the Riverside (91) Freeway will keep motorists
informed as to traffic conditions in and around Lake Elsinore, as well as what
detours are in place.
   ``Use alternate routes whenever possible -- Interstate 215 and state
Route 74,'' Pining said.
   California Highway Patrol Capt. John Tyler said more officers will be
``out roving'' this weekend, particularly when access to the canyon will be
controlled.
   ``We were overwhelmed last weekend,'' Tyler said. ``We'll have
additional officers out there to keep people moving.''
   On Sunday, an estimated 500 motorists parked on the shoulders of I-15
and stampeded into Walker Canyon when they encountered hours-long backups going
into Lake Elsinore, according to the CHP.
   ``We ask visitors to be respectful of local residents and treat the
area as you would want to be treated in your neighborhood,'' county Department
of Transportation Director Juan Perez said. ``Please be patient and follow the
signage on the freeways and surface roads. We're blessed by this natural
wonder, and we want this to be a good experience for all.''
   Perez said Horsethief Canyon at Temescal Canyon Road, as well as
Hostettler Road at Temescal Canyon and De Palma Road -- all in the Temescal
Valley -- will be restricted to residents-only traffic, with deputies checking
for identification.
   Area residents last weekend fumed in social media posts about the
monstrous traffic and that vegetation was being needlessly trampled as people
roamed into the canyon, leaving designated pathways.
   County Parks & Resources Chief Dustin McLain told reporters that
visitors should ``stay on trails, bring water and wear sturdy shoes'' to view
the wildflowers.
   ``It's two miles in and two miles out to see Mother Nature at her
best,'' McLain said, estimating that the bloom will be gone in two to three
weeks.
   He emphasized that people should also stick to trails to avoid
rattlesnakes, which are emerging from winter hibernation.
   More information about the weekend closures and Super Bloom
sightseeing is available at www.Lake-Elsinore.org .

CNS-03-23-2019 03:04