Two Philadelphia women who walked off a path and damaged an environmentally sensitive thermal area of Yellowstone National Park were sentenced to two days in jail and ordered to pay fines and restitution, the top federal prosecutor in Wyoming said Thursday.
Tara L. Davoli, 31, and Sarah A. Piotrowski, 30, were banned from Yellowstone for two years and will serve two years of unsupervised release, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman ordered on Tuesday.
The women were charged after a June 11 incident in which they were seen walking in a thermal area at Opal Pool in the Midway Geyser Basin, U.S. Attorney Mark A. Klaassen said in a news release from Cheyenne.
The women damaged orange bacterial mats, which make the thermal areas colorful and are a primary attraction at Yellowstone. The heat-loving bacteria are scientifically important for research on how life survives in extreme environments.
“Several witnesses took pictures of Davoli and Piotrowski walking in the thermal feature, which were provided to the park rangers. The rangers were able to use that information to assist in positively identifying the two,” said Mark N. Trimble, a spokesperson for Klaassen, in an email to The Inquirer.
“When confronted by witnesses the women made sarcastic remarks and went on their way. It is unclear the reason for them to be off the boardwalk and in the thermal pool,” Trimble said.
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Davoli and Piotrowski, who represented themselves in court, could not be reached for comment.
Davoli posted seeral photos on Facebook from Yellowstone the day after the incident and a short video of Piotrowski at what appears to be Old Faithful.
Davoli, who described herself as a bartender in Center City, did mention the criminal case.
“You got some dope pics!!” someone wrote.
“You know it,” Davoli replied, but added: “Wasn’t worth a week in jail.”
The women were ordered to pay a $350 fine and $106.92 each in restitution for damages. The amount of the restitution was based on an assessment conducted by a geologist at Yellowstone 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,” Klaassen said in a statement. “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.”