Why this small California town’s famed poppy superbloom may not happen in 2020

Hundreds of thousands of wildflower fans flocked to little Lake Elsinore last spring to catch a glimpse of orange-splashed hills along the 15 Freeway.

Lake Elsinore Mayor Brian Tisdale wasn’t exactly a fan of the California poppy superbloom show that played at nearby Walker Canyon for a month in 2019. And he’s not rooting for a 2020 sequel, either.

At this point it’s unlikely that Walker Canyon once again will be awash in orange, experts say.

Dustin McLain, chief of parks and resources for the Riverside County Park and Open-Space District, said chances for a superbloom this year are small because January was dry and February is off to a dry start.

“Is it possible? Yes,” McLain said. “Probable? Not so much — unless we get rain.”

“If we continue our current dry trend … that’s bad for flowers,” he said.

That’s just fine with Lake Elsinore officials.

“We’re hoping that we don’t have a big poppy bloom,” Tisdale said Wednesday, Feb. 12. “That kind of attention — even though it’s probably the most beautiful thing in Southern California — has an overwhelming impact on the local community.”

He was referring to the chaos that ensued on weekends in March 2019. So many people descended on Lake Elsinore, population 65,000, that the 15 was jammed for miles in both directions, portable toilets at Walker Canyon overflowed, city streets were mired in gridlock and residents couldn’t get out of their neighborhoods.

Overwhelmed, city officials temporarily closed Walker Canyon at one point, then barred cars from the area, forcing visitors to take paid shuttle rides to the site. That barely dented the social-media-fanned fervor as flower lovers continued to come in droves. But the policy made traffic somewhat manageable and took some strain off city streets.

Then a tragedy occurred: a California Highway Patrol sergeant assigned to traffic enforcement on the freeway to help handle the poppy crowds was killed while writing a ticket, a CHP officer said.

As this year’s wildflower season approaches, Lake Elsinore officials are preparing to gather with law enforcement officers, county park officials, a shuttle company representative and others to devise a plan for handling the traffic, if it gets out of hand again, said Nicole Dailey, assistant to the city manager.

Dailey said the city also recently reopened the Walker Canyon area.

“We recognize that people need a place to go if they want to come out and look for poppies,” she said.

At the moment, she said,

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle

      

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