Crowds, backed-up traffic force closure of poppy viewing area in Lake Elsinore
Lake Elsinore officials, with roads and staff overtaxed by tens of thousands of people arriving daily to view the giant California poppy bloom north of the city, ended the city’s shuttle service and closed the viewing area Sunday.
“The situation has escalated beyond our available resources. No additional shuttles or visitors will be allowed into Walker Canyon. Lake Street and Nichols ramps completely closed. We have to get traffic moving. This weekend has been unbearable,” officials wrote on the city’s Instagram account.
It was unclear when or if the area would reopen to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
“We will evaluate all options next week including ways to shut this down. Thank you for your understanding. We know it has been miserable and has caused unnecessary hardships for our entire community,” the post said.
Mayor Steve Manos posted several videos on his Facebook page Sunday. One showed Riverside County sheriff’s deputies ticketing illegally parked cars. Another showed the blanket of orange poppies, the crowd of visitors and the portable toilets that he said have not been cleaned fast enough because crews keep getting stuck in traffic.
Saturday, the city made an urgent plea for visitors to reschedule their trips for another day. They compared the size of the crowds to those seen at Disneyland and called the shortage of staff and the clogged roads a public safety crisis.
For those thinking about making the trek to see the poppies, we’ve had 500+ cars parked along the freeway, an employee trying to direct traffic get hit by a car, and Disneyland sized crowds. So…I hear Anza-Borrego is nice MM pic.twitter.com/P70IUqOolu
— Melissa Melendez (@asmMelendez) March 18, 2019
Authorities are looking to ease traffic congestion in Walker Canyon and discourage illegal parking on the freeway, amid Southern California’s most prolific wildflower bloom in years. Police and the California Highway Patrol stepped up traffic enforcement Saturday and Sunday and issued citations for illegal parking, officials said.
There were no reports of other poppy viewing areas being closed.