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Pechanga tribe gives Lake Elsinore $100,000 to deal with super-bloom crowds

Pechanga tribe gives Lake Elsinore $100,000 to deal with super-bloom crowds
Visitors pile into a shuttle to see the Lake Elsinore poppies. This weekend, prices go up to $10 to ride the buses to the blooms, the only way visitors will be allowed to see the flowers. (Lake Elsinore)

A Native American tribe has given the city of Lake Elsinore a grant of up to $100,000 to help handle crowds drawn to the area’s super bloom of wildflowers.

The gift comes on the heels of the city’s announcement of new crowd control measures that will be put in place this weekend.

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Lake Elsinore officials can use the money from the Pechanga Tribal Council for increased law enforcement or other safety personnel, traffic control and shuttle services, said Nicole Dailey, the assistant to the city manager.

“It gives us the ability to continue to implement these measures for the next few weeks and will help cover some of our costs not recovered by the shuttle rides,” she said.

Following a “miserable” and “unbearable” weekend, during which 50,000 to 100,000 people visited Walker Canyon to see the blooms each day, Lake Elsinore officials shut down access to the canyon Sunday evening and again Tuesday afternoon after officials ran thin on resources.

The chaos has prompted many to wonder whether tourists can behave enough to leave a little beauty behind for the next guests. Lake Elsinore Mayor Steve Manos, optimistic that the city could handle the influx of visitors and excited about the increased revenue for local businesses, scrambled to come up with a better plan.

On Thursday morning, the city announced that access to Walker Canyon would be closed and all visitors traveling to see the blooms would have to pay $10 for a shuttle service. Residents would be allowed through on some local roads after many were denied access to their homes last weekend.

Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said Lake Elsinore is part of the tribe’s ancestral territory, and the group felt a responsibility to help preserve the area’s natural beauty.

“This natural wonder is a treasure to be enjoyed by Californians, but we need to be responsible about it,” Macarro said in a statement. “Conservation and protection of our natural resources are important values to our tribe.”

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