Los Angeles Times

Flower power may draw crowds

- By Nathan Solis

The first smattering­s of golden poppies have begun to appear on the hillsides of Lake Elsinore, and local officials are bracing for the onslaught of traffic and ecotourist­s arriving to marvel at what could be a “su-perbloom” of wildflower­s.

In 2019, the quiet city in Riverside County saw thousands of people drive into town to take in the bursts of color. And the results were chaotic, city officials said.

A record series of California storms starting in late December has raised the hope for a robust superbloom season in Southern California, which attracts people from across the region seeking to experience the fleeting natural display of vibrant wildflower­s.

In preparatio­n for the arrival of the crowds that will swarm the hiking trails, the city of Lake Elsinore has closed Walker Canyon Road and posted no-parking signs on nearby streets. Officers will be patrolling the areas and issuing citations, officials said.

Flower lovers swarmed the trails of Lake Elsinore in February 2019, when thousands of bright orange poppies blanketed the landscape, providing an Instagram-worthy panorama for people to take in. But the nearby roads and Interstate 15 were clogged by traffic as tourists traipsed around the poppies and looked for parking.

An overwhelmi­ng flood of guests strained the area with “Disneyland size crowds,” according to local officials, who declared a #PoppyNight­mare on their social media channels. Residents were advised to stay off the local roads and avoid Walker Canyon. Shuttles meant to bring guests to the fields were stuck in traffic, according to officials.

One couple landed a helicopter in a poppy field in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, drawing an exasperate­d response from state officials.

It’s still unclear whether this year will yield the same vivid display of wildflower­s.

Guests should be mindful of their surroundin­gs and their literal footprints, said research ecologist Daniel Winkler of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southwest Biological Science Center.

“Staying on trails, in desert systems, is probably the most important bit of advice anyone can get, because desert soils are incredibly fragile when it comes to humans and impacts,” Winkler said.

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