Couple lands helicopter in California poppy fields, prompting investigation

Alex Stone/ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- In an effort to protect the delicate flowers, officials at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve have be working hard to keep selfie-seeking guests on the paths and out of the fields. Little did they know they had to watch out for helicopters, too.

On Monday afternoon, a couple flew over the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve and landed their helicopter in the poppies, according to California State Parks PIO Jorge Moreno. The incident was captured by a poppy field guest.

“We never thought it would be explicitly necessary to state that it is illegal to land a helicopter in the middle of the fields and begin hiking off trail in the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, but recent events have shown that we were wrong,” the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve said in a now-deleted Facebook post.

When law enforcement officials tried to approach the couple, the pair ran back to their helicopter and flew off.

This season’s super blooms across California have drawn massive crowds determined to get a glimpse of the beauty. The influx of visitors has not been without challenge to the communities and their poppies.

Over the last two weeks, for example, the city of Lake Elsinore has struggled to keep its poppy fields open. On March 17, it said on its Facebook page that the fields had been closed due to a lack of resources. A few days later, however, they reopened with new plans in place to control vehicle and foot traffic.

The California State Park staff have been preparing for this year's bloom for months, and created the #DontDoomTheBloom and #BeautyITheBloom to create social awareness and responsibility, according to Moreno. They've noticed visitors both at the park and on social media educating each other on how to properly enjoy the blooms.

"This year’s bloom is spectacular and we understand that visitors want to take that great photo but going off trails or laying on the flowers causes irreversible damages to the natural habitat," Moreno told ABC News.

Those who stray from the path could be fined, Moreno said, noting that fees will vary.

“We understand this may not seem like the crime of the century, but it only takes the actions of a few to wreck the scenery for years to come,” Antelope Valley Reserve said on Facebook.

As for the two who landed their helicopter, Moreno said that California State Parks is continuing to investigate the incident.

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