Poppy season crackdown: Lake Elsinore adding restrictions to turn away poppy bloom crowds

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Saturday, February 4, 2023
Lake Elsinore adding restrictions to turn away poppy bloom crowds
Lake Elsinore officials are restricting parking and blocking off the entrance to Walker Canyon to prevent huge crowds and traffic messes as California poppies start to sprout up across the hills.

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. (KABC) -- Poppy fields across Southern California are expected to return to full glory after all the recent rains. However, there's a downside to all that beauty: huge crowds clogging roads and creating a big traffic mess.

In Lake Elsinore, the bloom is making a comeback.

California poppies are sprouting up across the hills east of the 15 Freeway, but it's not nearly the show seen in 2019 when bright orange blooms blanketed the hills.

"It doesn't appear to be as much this year, but who knows, you never know," said Temecula resident Dan Montoya. "If we get some more rain in a week or two, who knows? You might get some more."

Montoya drove up from Temecula to shoot video with his drone. He was all alone out there Friday morning - a much different scene from 2019 when the freeway, and all the surrounding streets were jammed with traffic.

Lake Elsinore Mayor Natasha Johnson said for residents, it was a nightmare.

"You couldn't get to the grocery store in less than two hours, you couldn't go to work, you couldn't even get out of your neighborhoods without having to be queued in a line," Johnson said.

The city doesn't want to see a repeat of that situation.

Not only is the entrance to Walker Canyon blocked off, but all of the surrounding side streets have been marked off with no-parking signs. It's being done to discourage people from showing up in masse.

Johnson said the city isn't concerned with foot traffic because it would take walking a couple of miles to get to the bloom.

And parking along a freeway onramp is also illegal. The city says that will be enforced, and tow trucks will be ready.

"We're telling the public, don't chance it, it's not worth the citation or potential tow," Johnson said.

Lake Elsinore isn't the only option to see poppies. There's a state reserve in the Antelope Valley, and there's also poppies blooming in Irvine.