It’s understandable that people get excited when seeing a once-in-a-decade wildflower bloom, but a desire for social media Likes shouldn’t get in the way of rational thought and care. It’s easy to accidentally step a few inches off trail, slowly widening a path and damaging more plants. “It’s already damaged,” or “I’m just one person,” leads to the same thing being repeated many times over, and the compounding effects can be disastrous.
The Poppy Reserve hadn’t returned our request for comment on the damage at time of publish. Dustin McLain, natural resource manager with Riverside County Parks & Open Space District, which oversees Walker Canyon, said staff were definitely caught off guard by the influx of people. “Most people were very cognizant of not trampling,” he said, but “there were a good portion that were trying to do the right thing but just didn’t.” That has left a network of trails on the ground that could lead to future erosion.
David Smith, superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park, said trampling is less of a problem in the harsh Mojave Desert since the plants are hardier, but that there’s another good reason to stay on trails even if you can’t be bothered about conservation — rattlesnakes.