Valley News -

By Kim Harris
Managing Editor 

'Poppy Apocalypse' overwhelms city with visitors

Influx of visitors creates 'public safety issue,' officials say

 

Last updated 3/18/2019 at 7:28pm

Kim Harris

Early morning visitors to Lake Elsinore begin to arrive at the poppy fields located at Walker Canyon, Friday, March 15.

The super bloom of poppies along Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore brought more than 50,000 people to the city to view the state flower in its natural environment Saturday, March 16. While most would think 50,000 visitors to any city would just be good business, Lake Elsinore, despite the city's best efforts, has been overwhelmed by those lovers of the little orange flowers.

Long wait times, backed up traffic and other public safety concerns have caused the city to bring in all available staff, according to a post on social media.

"The city has expended all available resources to address the #SuperBloom. We have brought in all available staff, as many outside traffic controllers that we could, more shuttles, and our small city cannot sustain crowds of this magnitude," the Instagram post read.

The city brought in shuttle buses to assist with the crowds, charging $5 a person to offset the cost. Shuttles ran Saturday and will run Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those wishing to ride the shuttle, the city's preferred way for people to get to Walker Canyon, can park at the Lake Elsinore Outlets.

"People are creating chaos out there and we have already had an injury. This is a public safety crisis, so we ask your support," the city's statement said.

Saturday a city employee was struck by a hit and run driver and a visitor was bitten by a rattlesnake along Walker Canyon trail.

Lake Elsinore Mayor Steve Manos took to his Facebook page Saturday to address the situation.

"We're short-handed," he said. "Residents have been screaming at the people directing traffic.

Manos said that while on the site he met some people from Sacramento in the estimated crowd of 50,000 visitors.

"Twice as many as last weekend," Manos said of the visitors. "People lined up since 5:30 a.m. It's insane."

Lake Elsinore's Instagram post said the city had reached out to the neighboring cities and county agencies for help.

"Our city is not made for Disneyland size crowds," the post said. "We have reached out to Caltrans. We have reached out to CHP. We are running out of options."

While visitors flock to the city, many residents are not happy, taking to social media to voice their concerns.

"All available staff?" I saw 2 guys the whole 45 minutes from Riverside to the park and ride, one Twitter commenter, identified as @Angelic Flautist said. "This is ridiculous, whatever was going on before was better than this. Get it together this is not right."

Manos said that the city is trying to do the right thing and that he understands the frustrations of residents.

"Some believe if we simply shut the road down that people will politely turn around and head home or that we can simply use a checkpoint to verify identities and allow thousands of residents through closed roads. That's not realistic," he said.

Kim Harris

The hillsides at Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore are covered with poppies and other wildflowers, causing an "unsustainable" influx of visitors to the city.

Traffic into Lake Elsinore from both the north and south backed up for miles Saturday. Riverside County Emergency Management Department, CHP, Riverside County Sheriffs Department and city staff were all on hand to help with traffic congestion Saturday.

Much of the same is expected today so the city is asking residents to please show understanding for the situation which is beyond its control.

"Please stay away rom the area and stay off local roads if possible," the city statement on social media said.

Visitors should refrain from coming to the area today, and instead are encouraged to visit during the week when the crowds are smaller.

"The city is truly trying to do the best and right thing. While the community has expressed many concerns, please understand that many things are beyond our control and we are doing what we can. We wish we could do more," the city's social media posting said.

Manos said he wanted to thank all the city's residents for their patience as the city navigates the "craziness."

"Hang in there," he said.

 

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