After being forced to temporarily shut down access to the super bloom at Walker Canyon last Sunday due to an overwhelming number of visitors, Lake Elsinore officials on Thursday announced a slew of new weekend crowd control and traffic measures.
To deal with what it's calling the "super bloom apopplypse," the city is implementing road closures and parking restrictions to the general public on Saturday and Sunday, as well as shutting down the Lake Street offramps on both sides of the 15 Freeway.
“This has been a crisis never experienced before, unlike anything we have faced in Lake Elsinore," Lake Elsinore Police Department Michael Lujan said at a news conference on Thursday. "As the crowds have increased, so have the needs for public safety risk associated with the super bloom.”
Among the biggest changes: visitors will no longer be allowed to drive to Walker Canyon. Instead, they will have to pay to take a shuttle bus at one of two locations.
The shuttle can be accessed through the Nichols Road exit and will start running both days at 6:30 a.m., with the last one heading to the poppy fields at 5 p.m. It will cost $10 for anyone over the age of 3.
Visitors should arrive early, as the city anticipates possible wait times of 2 1/2 hours or more.
Additionally, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department will deploy 40 additional deputies for traffic control and enforcement, while the California Highway Patrol will have extra units monitoring the freeway.
The weekend effort will take place on Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, officials said.
On weekdays, parking will be permitted along Walker Canyon Road and the poppy fields can be accessed via Lake Street, according to the city's website.
“We ask our visitors to be patient as we try to balance the needs of the community and those of you coming to visit our beautiful hillsides," Lujan said.
The Pechanga Tribal Council said Thursday that it is granting the city $100,000 to help with law enforcement and traffic control.
“This natural wonder is a treasure to be enjoyed by Californians, but we need to be responsible about it,” Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said in a statement.
The new measures were announced after tens of thousands of people flocked to the city to see the rare phenomenon, creating a traffic nightmare in the area.
The resulting chaos prompted officials to end access to Walker Canyon on Sunday afternoon. The area was reopened the following morning with restricted parking in place, with officials noting it wasn't feasible to shut it down entirely.
Local residents are being asked to avoid the Walker Canyon area for the meantime, though they will have access to designated routes exclusive to them.
More information, including a full list of road closures and information on shuttle parking, can be found by visiting the city's website here.