GREAT FALLS — Two women were sentenced this week for being off-trail in a thermal area of Yellowstone National Park.
The charges are the result of an incident on June 11, 2020, where both women were seen off the boardwalk walking in a thermal area, which resulted in damage to orange bacterial mats at Opal Pool in the Midway Geyser Basin. Numerous witnesses saw the two walking on the feature and confronted them in an effort to get them to stop.
Federal District Court Magistrate Judge Mark Carman sentenced Tara Davoli, 31 years old, and Sarah A. Piotrowski, 30, both of Philadelphia, to two days imprisonment, and ordered them to pay a fine of $350 and restitution of $106.92 for damages to Opal Pool.
In addition, the two women have been banned from Yellowstone National Park for two years and will serve two years of unsupervised release. The amount of restitution was based on a damage assessment conducted by a Yellowstone geologist and a thermal research crew.
“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 Klaassen in a news release. “We support the National Park Service and Park Rangers who work to enforce these rules so we can all continue to enjoy amazing places like Yellowstone and preserve the park for future generations.”
"We appreciate the support of the Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office in continuing to help us protect Yellowstone's resources," said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly. "The successful investigation and prosecution of these types of cases help prevent future degradation of resources committed by irresponsible visitors."
The Yellowstone National Park website provides the following information about safety around thermal features:
- Always walk on boardwalks and designated trails. Keep children close and do not let them run on boardwalks.
- Do not touch thermal features or runoff.
- Swimming or soaking in hot springs is prohibited. More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone’s hot springs.
- Pets are prohibited in thermal areas.
- Do not throw objects into hot springs or other hydrothermal features.
- Toxic gases may accumulate to dangerous levels in some hydrothermal areas. If you begin to feel sick while exploring one of our geyser basins, leave the area immediately.