Super Bloom Latest: Looks Good
Last updated 2/26/2019 at 9:53am
It has already begun. "First bloom has started in the Borrego Badlands (lupine, dune evening primrose, and verbena)," Desert Research Biologist Kate Harper said in her latest Season Bloom Analysis, "where rain in October has given an unusual winter bloom, and can be seen on S-22 between Markers #31 – 38."
The natural forces of Mother Nature therefore look to be lining up for what could be yet another wildflower explosion in Borrego Springs come March. Infrequent but welcome rains, combined with weather forecasting by the experts, have community leaders and many volunteers preparing diligently for another spectacular Super Bloom of wildflowers in the Borrego Valley.
With the beauty of it all, and hopes that folks enjoy their stays and retain good memories of Borrego, community leaders are hoping to make it as pleasant an experience as possible.
A tremendous influx of tourists in a short period of time are expected, but unlike two years ago when local transportation, food and water supplies, and sanitation services were stretched to the breaking point, it looks like this time we WILL be prepared.
What follows is a summary of the Jan. 24 Planning Meeting on the 2019 wildflower season, sponsored by the Borrego Village Association, held in the Library Community Room. Included are recommendations from focus groups that were formed. All recommendations are subject to change prior to a Super Bloom event, but specific recommendations should be adopted in a timely fashion to mitigate problems foreseen. A full report on what's been decided, including a map, will be included in the Feb. 21 issue of the Borrego Sun.
Park Superintendent Gina Moran began the meeting by confirming to the 30 participants what all were expecting: "Everything is looking towards a super bloom." For visual confirmation, Mark Andrews with County Roads observed that the Salton Seaway is already in full bloom.
Our go-to expert on wildflowers, Harper, had earlier reported via website her 2019 Season Bloom Analysis as of Jan. 11: "We are on track for a very good bloom, the only events that would derail a significant bloom are below-freezing or very hot temperatures" just as seeds are germinating or flowers starting to bloom.
With an eye on the news, the Upper Mid-West and East Coast are now suffering from sub-freezing temps due to the Polar Vortex, but we in Borrego are not expecting such events, nor temps and further rainfall above our normal range. At least not now.
Moran then spoke of the need for effective planning when the expected Super Bloom arrives, recalling the estimated 250,000 people who came in 2017, many without a clue as to what they needed for even one day, not to mention a weekend in the desert. Prior to their arrival in 2019, Moran said, visitors will need pertinent info on food, water, bathrooms, and roads.
Betsy Knaak recapped details from the 2017 Super Bloom when local issues reached federal ears: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) registered their concerns on safety, food, lodging, and bathrooms. Knaak also reported that ATM's ran out of money and trash built up to more than overflowing in and around town and in the Park. She also reminded folks that our 2019 wildflower season would coincide with Circle of Art and the ABDNHA Garden Tour.
California State Parks rep Norm Ruhmke laid out what was currently being planned in terms of traffic diversions and road closures in town and within the Park. As a reference point, Ruhmke noted that starting on Presidents Day Weekend in 2017 and running 60 days through the wildflower season, the Park counted between 7,000 – 10,000 visitors per day.
The following is a rundown on Ruhmke's expectations and logistical concerns during the coming wildflower season:
– Expect the visitor center to be full and closed to additional vehicles by 9 a.m., with vehicles allowed to be rotated in as vehicles leave;
– Portable toilets will be placed along Henderson Road and at the Visitor's Center;
– The Palm Canyon trail is expected to be full by 7 a.m.;
– Increased visitor numbers will put a strain on Park resources;
– Traffic arriving via the Montezuma Grade will be directed to make a right turn into the community;
– If a (second) government shutdown is in effect during our flower season, the closure of Joshua Tree and Death Valley may result in attendance increases in our Park.
Christmas Circle is enjoyed by many visitors, but according to Jim Wilson, our former Honorary Mayor, the bathrooms need to be cleaned twice a day, at minimum.
The Meeting broke up into separate focus groups, and here are the groups, leader, and highlights:
Health & Safety (Andy Macuga): During the 2017 Super Bloom, FEMA cited the need to address shortages with fuel, food, water, and lodging. Here's the current situation:
– ATM machines are located at the Wells Fargo drive-up;
– The Desert Mirage and XL gas stations are aware of the potential demand on fuel an "are ready."
– Stores have been asked to double the amount of bottle water on hand, and non-profit groups could sell water at the circle;
– Sysco can park a refrigerated truck in town to store inventory for restaurants;
– Borrego Fire Department is increasing their crews on shift, and the Red cross could be asked to assist by providing a comfort station to handle minor injuries and heat-related illnesses.
Public Information (Betsy Knaak):
– Consider pop-up information stations with water, maps, and first aid kits located at Henderson Rd., Yaqui Pass, Coyote Canyon, and the Library/Park;
– Messaging: Get information out to future guests prior to their arrival. Key messages include filling your vehicle prior to arrival in Borrego, and bringing water and food;
– Develop a team of community ambassadors already trained to help with events in Borrego and who can be relied upon for future wildflower seasons;
– Place physical signs (realtor-style) with directional arrows to direct visitors to necessities and wildflower locations;
– Helpful if hotels, resorts, and rental property managers continue to share info about upcoming bookings during the wildflower season;
– To spread out the number of guests, encourage visitors to visit historically less-visited places during flower season such as Rams Hill for meals;
– Put maps on water bottles.
Traffic (Norm Ruhmke):
– The County Road Department can help funnel people into Borrego from various directions, reducing the traffic coming down the Grade;
– When Palm Canyon and the Visitor Center are full, they will close, but as spots open up, cars will be allowed in;
– Give folks directions on how to get into the Park;
– Visitors with camping reservations will not be allowed site access before 2 p.m.;
– Increased staffing for County Sheriffs and Park rangers will be in effect by Presidents Day weekend;
– Someone should reach out to Ramona and Julian to make sure they are prepared for increased traffic through their towns;
– Inform the media to let folks know they should go into town, not the Park Visitor's Center, when they arrive in Borrego.
Sanitation (Diane Johnson):
– Offering bathroom/trash facilities to guests prior to arriving in Borrego Springs will ease the demand on in-town facilities;
– Release and circulate to the media our map created to show placement of 58 portable toilets and 10 dumpsters;
– The Park is planning to rent six portable toilets;
– Portable toilets need to be secured against blow-over and need to be serviced multiple times per week;
– Dumpsters need to be located near portable toilets and also serviced multiple times per week, with a minimum three-yard capacity and lids to limit large (unauthorized) dumping and trash blowing out;
– Rental and service contracts will extend from mid-February to mid-April, and the County will be contacted as a potential funding source;
There you have it, a summary of the latest planning efforts by the Borrego Community to help enhance the enjoyment of visitors during our coming flower season, and more information will follow. It might get a little hectic out there, but with a flow of good ideas, patience, and retaining a positive attitude, we'll get through it, somehow.