Up until recently, the state of California found itself in a state of drought that left the lands vulnerable to wildfires. But now, the hillsides of Lake Elsinore have burst into bloom, thanks to the vibrant poppies that cover the landscape. While that may sound like good news at first, the phenomenon — dubbed “superbloom” — has also caused another species to crop up like weeds. They’re influencers — and they’re annoying, destructive, and difficult to get rid of.
According to research, 23% of millennials say that social media significantly influences their choice of travel destination. That influence was never more clear as what city officials and residents experienced, as tens of thousands of influencers and amateur shutter bugs flocked to the Southern California town. In their efforts to snap the perfect shot that would rack up thousands of likes on Instagram, these social media mavens unknowingly wreaked havoc. Traffic reached an all-time high, with city shuttle service wait times exceeding hours. Parking spots were all but gone, which isn’t surprising when you realize that an additional 50,000 visitors had made their way to a city that normally has a population of only 60,000.
Visitors also ended up getting hurt due to the risks they took when seeking out the perfect shot. According to sources, people slid down rough terrain and fainted in the heat. One dog was bitten by a rattlesnake, while a city employee was actually hit by a car. Worse yet, many of these influencers behaved badly during their time amongst the poppies, trampling on and picking the flowers in some instances. Although overhead shots of beautiful Insta-celebrities laying down amongst the blooms made for some drool-worthy content, they destroyed the very source of the beauty in the process. As a result, officials actually had to close off access to the fields to prevent further damage, though they later surrendered control and conceded it would be impossible for them to keep visitors away from Walker Canyon.
As the 113.5 million people in the U.S. who participated in gardening during 2014 can attest, the reckless actions of these influencers could result in the absence of future superblooms. Similar instances of trampling in the area took place during 2017, and officials say that those areas still have not recovered from the physical trauma. Not surprisingly, there’s been a healthy amount of backlash directed towards those who posed amongst the poppies, both online and among locals. Although some local businesses flourished as a result of the influx of tourists, it remains to be seen as to whether the Instagram fodder will be worth wrecking the existence of this and future flower phenomenons.