This spring, the City of Lake Elsinore experienced an extraordinary natural phenomenon: Extended drought conditions followed by record rainfall produced a massive bloom of California wildflowers known as the 2019 Super Bloom in Walker Canyon.
The once-in-a-lifetime Super Bloom blanketed Lake Elsinore mountainsides and canyons with an abundance of orange California poppies. Attracting up to 100,000 daily visitors from all over the world, the Super Bloom wonder demonstrated the extreme beauty of Lake Elsinore. “It was crazy,” said the city’s finance manager, Shannon Buckley. “Visitors came from all over the United States, as well as Europe and Asia. People were getting off the bus and showing us their passports from countries as far as China, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Even a few celebrities showed up.”
When the unplanned tourist attraction also generated public safety issues for the City of Lake Elsinore, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (JPIA) was available to provide support. “The challenge was a large inundation of visitors in order to view the Super Bloom of wildflowers,” said the city’s designated Risk Manager, Alex Mellor. “This had a huge impact on the city, as well as local business and property owners, in the form of people trespassing, parking where they shouldn’t, getting into traffic accidents, and overestimating their physical ability to make the hike to view the wildflowers, trampling on the flowers.”
The city and its partners responded to this unplanned, natural phenomenon by putting public safety first. City, county, transportation, and public safety personnel worked together to create a unified approach to address the increasing public safety challenges related to the Super Bloom. This included increasing available resources and support, implementing additional traffic control measures, increased enforcement, expanded public notices, and the use of shuttle services to transport visitors to the trailhead where they could experience the Super Bloom.
The overall goal of these efforts was to ensure the safety of those visiting Walker Canyon while also reducing traffic impacts and safety concerns from residents. Buckley oversaw the entire operation, which began with the establishment of an Incident Command Post. Buckley designated staff to operate key positions throughout the process and to mitigate problems as they arose.
“We took steps to address the public safety issues, such as designating parking and walking areas, and developed a map for the residents to be able to get out of their homes,” said Buckley.
Although not without its challenges, the Super Bloom provided positive, worldwide visibility of the City of Lake Elsinore. With the help of the Authority and other public agencies, the city was able to manage the situation and mitigate some of the more severe issues.
“The first weekend,” said Buckley. “the Authority reached out and said, ‘How can we help?’ ‘Whatever you need, whatever resources that we can provide, please let us know.’ It was awesome.”
While it’s impossible to be fully prepared for unexpected events like the Super Bloom, practicing sound risk management and establishing strong relationships with organizations like the California JPIA can be critical to helping public agencies address unanticipated emergencies.
Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 100 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive risk management training and loss control services.