Two Pennsylvania women will serve time in jail for trespassing in a thermal area at Yellowstone National Park.
Tara Davoli, 31, and Sarah Piotrowski, 30, were both sentenced to two days in jail after walking off the boardwalk at Opal Pool in the Midway Geyser Basin, about seven miles north of Old Faithful.
According to a Yellowstone press release, multiple witnesses observed the two walking on the feature and confronted them in an effort to get them to stop from harming the fragile environment.
Orange bacterial mats were damaged in the incident which occurred June 11, resulting in $106.92 in damages to Opal Pool. A damage assessment was conducted by a Yellowstone geologist and a thermal research crew.
Davoli and Piotrowski will also have to pay a $350 fine in addition to the restitution.
An orange microbial mat is an ecosystem containing millions of microorganisms, growing in an area where warm water seeps out of the hot earth.
The pair is banned from Yellowstone for two years and will also be assessed two years unsupervised probation.
It was only about one month earlier in May when a woman illegally entered the Park and fell into a boiling hot thermal feature at Old Faithful. The woman was airlifted to a burn center in Idaho.
There has been a number of similar incidents in the Park in the past five years.
In October 2019, a 48-year-old man fell into a thermal feature, suffering serious burns. Three years earlier, a man in his 20s walked off the boardwalk path and to his death at Norris Geyser Basin. In 2017, a man fell into a hot spring at Lower Geyser Basin and suffered serious burns.
There are around 10,000 thermal features in the Park in the forms of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, travertine terraces and fumaroles.
Signs are posted in many locations inside Yellowstone warning visitors to stay on boardwalks and not venture onto the fragile ground which could damage the features and result in fatalities.
“The rules in our National Parks are there for a reason – to protect visitors and the natural beauty we all want to experience and enjoy. Just taking a few steps off the boardwalk in a thermal area may seem harmless, but it can really damage the ecosystem and potentially put visitors in danger,” said United States Attorney Mark A. Klaassen.