Lake Elsinore city officials have shut down Walker Canyon to the public after swarms of crowds descended upon the area to admire the Super Bloom of poppy fields last week.
Nearly 66,000 visitors arrived in droves to admire the Super Bloom which grid-locked Interstate 15 and the streets around the trailhead, prompting the city to call a public safety emergency and posting hashtags like #PoppyShutdown, #PoppyNightmare, #IsItOverYet and #HanginthereLE on Facebook.
“This weekend has been unbearable,” the city’s Facebook post said. “We will evaluate all options next week including ways to shut this down. …We know it has been miserable and has caused unnecessary hardships for our entire community.”
The flowers bloomed on the steep sides of Walker Canyon, prompting wildflower-seekers to try to hike a canyon that was never meant to be hiked. There were reports of people free-climbing and scrambling over boulders, knocking rocks loose and even of people falling down, all in an attempt to get Insta-worthy photographs.
Ambulances continuously drove to and from the canyon and one injury was reported on Saturday afternoon.
Darian Williams, 24, of Anaheim drove an hour and a half to see the Super Bloom. “People were pulled over on the side of the road to see the flowers as we drove here,” Williams said. “It was amazing to see the number of flowers grow as we got closer.”
The city was offering a $5 shuttle service to Walker Canyon from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to assist with traffic and police even shut down roads and lanes just for the shuttle, but on Saturday, the wait times were about 45 minutes to an hour. By Sunday, the wait time was an hour and a half.
Two years ago, Lake Elisnore had a Super Bloom, but according to community service employee, Vicky Saavedra, the city didn’t experience anything close to the madness that occurred this week. Over the last week, city employees worked seven days for 12 hours a day trying to handle all of the visitors.
While it looked like Lake Elisnore wasn’t going to reopen the canyon, it appears they’ve had a change of heart. As of today, they posted on their Facebook that Walker Canyon is reopened for flower viewing but parking is “extremely limited,” and police are out in full force to ticket anyone who parks illegally.
The post also mentioned: “The City continues to evaluate all possible options to reduce the strain on our community, the freeway, and local roadways. At this time, it is not feasible for us to keep visitors away from #WalkerCanyon.”
“We are working on a new plan and new options for the coming weekend and will be sure to share this with our community as soon as possible.”
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