#Superbloom or #poppynightmare? Selfie chaos forces the closure of the canyon | Environment


This weekend, thousands of tourists crisscrossed poppy fields in southern California, posting photos marked #superbloom. But for the city of Lake Elsinore, the influx of visitors quickly became a #poppynightmare.

Nestled in the hills of western Riverside County, Elsinore Lake has stopped at least 50,000 people flocked to the area, stomping on flowers and creating traffic jams of several hours on the island. Interstate 15 and the streets of the city around the trailhead. Things have deteriorated so much that the city was forced Sunday to ban access to Walker Canyon, one of the most popular sites for poppy lovers.

"This weekend was unbearable at Lake Elsinore," the city writes on its Facebook and Instagram pages, adding the hashtag #poppynightmare. "We know that this has been miserable and has caused useless difficulties to our entire community."

A photoshoot in the poppy fields near Lake Elsinore.

A photoshoot in the poppy fields near Lake Elsinore. Photography: Etienne Laurent / EPA

Social media is partly to blame for the outbreak of super bloom, with thousands of photos flocking to Instagram over the weekend. Some of the most popular articles quickly prompted critical comments: "Trampling flowers for a photo? Now they have closed, "wrote a user. "No need for a photo."

Meanwhile, Lake Elsinore mayor Steve Manos himself participated in a social media blitz, posting regular Facebook video updates on what he called "poppy-palooza". They show end-to-end traffic and cars illegally parked on the highway, as well as tips on how visitors can avoid a crush.

Kirstin Burrows, who has been living in the city for three years, said the weekend had drawn the worst rally she had ever seen. "The last bloom, two years ago, had nothing to do with it," she says. "This bloom is so much bigger and is the subject of so much press, it destroys the area."

Burrows said her husband had tried to get to a professional activity on Sunday, usually only a 45-minute drive, but he turned around after sitting in traffic for an hour and a half. "There is really no way to handle this influx of visitors," she said.

The super flowering covered the Walker Canyon with orange flowers.

The super flowering covered the Walker Canyon with orange flowers. Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images

Crowds also faced another obstacle: rattlesnakes, which rise from their hibernation this spring and are at their most active. At least one visitor was bitten, while another visitor was injured while climbing rocks off the trails.

Superflowers can have big impacts on small towns. In 2017, the last time Southern California rains brought crowds to see the colors, the city of Borrego Springs experienced a "flowergeddon", lacking bathrooms, gas and food. This year, Borrego was better, but other places are burned by the crowd.

On Monday morning, the canyon reopened – with an extremely limited number of parking spaces. In the latest city video on Facebook, visitors can be seen in front of Mayor Manos and in the canyon as he encourages them to consider coming another day: "We are full".

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