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#PoppyShutdown Super Bloom Crowds Cause a ‘Public Safety Crisis’

The city of Lake Elsinore was struggling to cope with the influx of visitors coming to see the super bloom over the weekend, and the Lake Elsinore City Hall Facebook page Sunday announced that the crowds had grown beyond the city’s available resources.

The Facebook page used the hashtag “Poppyshutdown” and said no additional shuttles or visitors would be allowed to go to Walker Canyon, labeling the weekend “unbearable.” The Lake Elsinore City Hall Facebook page ended its post with a series of hashtags: “#PoppyNightmare #IsItOver #HanginthereLE.”

On Monday, early morning visitors walked around a gate across a trail to see the flowers in Walker Canyon. 

One man arrived from Colorado.

Toni Guinyard/KNBC-TV

“I’ve had it on my list for many years,” said Tom Heywood. “The timing was right. So, last minute, I just loaded up the truck and here I am.”

The area reopened later Monday morning.

An estimated 50,000 people flooded into the Inland Empire over the weekend, creating “Disneyland sized crowds” to view the so-called super bloom, and the rush is proving too much for local officials to handle, the city of Lake Elsinore said in a statement on Saturday.

One city employee was struck by a hit-and-run driver, while another visitor was bit by rattlesnake, according to Lake Elsinore Mayor Steve Manos’ social media posting.

“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 city’s statement said.

Substantial and sustained rainfall in the early months of the year led to an explosion of California poppies along the hillsides that line the 15 Freeway. Hordes of people have come through the area in hopes of taking in the gorgeous golden hills.

The rush affected the 15 Freeway throughout the weekend, and Newschopper4 Bravo captured a long line of vehicles and roads shut down on Sunday evening. Earlier on Sunday, an estimated 500 vehicles were parked illegally, according to the California highway Patrol.

The city had asked visitors come on weekdays whenever possible and to stay out of the area entirely, if possible.

“The City is truly trying to do the best and right thing,” the statement said. “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.”