Two men have been banned from Yellowstone National Park for five years for trespassing on the cone of the park’s best-known attraction — Old Faithful geyser.
Eric Schefflin, 20, of Lakewood, Colorado, and Ryan Goetz, 25, of Woodstock, New York, pleaded guilty last month to the charge of trespassing on a thermal feature. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman sentenced them Dec. 5 at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs.
Besides being banished from Yellowstone, Schefflin and Goetz were sentenced to 10 days in jail, $540 in restitution each and five years of unsupervised probation.
“It’s good to send out a strong statement that not only can people get hurt or damage these natural resources ... but it’s also illegal,” said Linda Veress with the park’s Office of Strategic Communications. “That’s sometimes what resonates with some people.”
Park employees and visitors spotted the men walking on the cone Sept. 10 and reported it to park dispatch, after which a ranger contacted and cited them.
“Law enforcement officers take this violation seriously,” Chief Ranger Sarah Davis said in a news release. “Yellowstone National Park also appreciates the court for recognizing the impact thermal trespass can have on these amazing features.”
Hydrothermal areas like Old Faithful are generally fragile, and the ground can often be thin, with scalding water just below. Park officials tell visitors they must stay on boardwalks and exercise caution around geysers, hot springs and other thermal sites.
“Hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature,” the park’s website states.
At least 22 people are known to have died from hot springs-related injuries in and around the park since 1890. As recently as September, a 48-year-old man suffered severe burns after falling into 150-degree water near the cone of Old Faithful.
It’s also not the first time in recent years that a group of young men has faced legal repercussions for treading on the park’s sensitive natural wonders. In 2017, four Canadian vloggers were sentenced to a combination of jail time, fines and probation after they posted photos and video of themselves walking on the Grand Prismatic Spring.
As of late September, Yellowstone rangers had cited about three dozen people throughout 2019 for leaving the boardwalks, an increase from 2018.
Park officials ask that anyone who witnesses another person leaving boardwalks gather as much information as possible — a description of their appearance, a license plate number — and report it to a ranger.