LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. (AP) - Lake Elsinore’s Walker Canyon, site of a magnificent super bloom of poppies, reopened Monday after “Disneyland size crowds” overwhelmed the small Southern California city, creating what officials called a “miserable situation.”
Social media photos showed heavy traffic on Interstate 15 near Lake Street and Nichols Road Sunday, where many visitors stopped and parked illegally to enjoy the flower fields. The California Highway Patrol issued a Sig Alert Monday and shut down the Lake Street offramp to control the situation.
Despite the start of the work week, the number of visitors remained high Monday due to spring break, according to Nicole Dailey, assistant to the Lake Elsinore city manager. Dailey was not able to estimate the amount of people traveling to the flower fields.
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In addition to heavy traffic, Lake Elsinore officials coped with medical emergencies. Four people were hurt over the weekend, Dailey said. The injuries included a staff member who was routing traffic was hit by a vehicle, a hiker bitten by a rattlesnake, a visitor who fainted in the heat, and a woman hit in the head with a rock under unknown circumstances.
“Our employees that have been working 7 days straight and 12 hour days are being met with the worst kinds of behavior,” Lake Elsinore officials posted on Instagram.
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#AttentionResidents: the roads are really bad out there. Long waits for Central Avenue. We have called in more police services from surrounding cities to help. The freeway is not moving and Cental is a mess. Avoid if you can. Grand Avenue is a better alternative if heading south or coming from the south. Ortega Highway if heading to the OC or returning. #Visitors: We discourage you from coming as the last shuttle will leave to the flowers at 5:30 pm. After this weekend, we will regroup and look at any and all remaining options. Our employees that have been working 7 days straight and 12 hour days are being met with the worst kinds of behavior. Remember to be kind out there LE. Our staff are only trying to do their jobs while they have been away from their families. #SuperBloom #HanginthereLE #LakeElsinore #IsItOverYet
10News reporter Amanda Brandeis traveled to the super bloom last week and caught visitors on camera as they walked off trails, trampling future growth.
“People were extremely disrespectful,” said Dailey.
Lake Elsinore businesses saw a boost, Dailey reported, but it has been “too much of an increase.” Starbucks emailed city officials saying they were overwhelmed by the demand and couldn’t keep up.
“This weekend has become unbearable Lake Elsinore,” city officials posted, adding “it has been miserable and has caused unnecessary hardships for our entire community.”
Lake Elsinore also reached out to other law enforcement agencies for assistance.
“We have brought in all available staff, as many outside traffic controllers that we could, more shuttles, and our small City can not sustain crowds of this magnitude,” city officials said on Instagram. “We have reached out to our neighboring and county agencies for help. We have reached out to Caltrans. We have reached out to CHP. We are running out of options.”
Sunday afternoon, city officials shut down the golden hillsides due to the crush, saying they were “truly trying to do the best and right thing.”
Lake Elsinore officials reopened Walker Canyon Monday, saying they didn’t have the resources available to enforce a closure.
With the super bloom expected to last at least four weeks, the city is looking for options to control the crowd, said Dailey.