A webcam installed last year to broadcast live streaming video of Yellowstone National Park’s iconic Old Faithful Geyser around the world was instrumental in the arrest of six vandals last week. As seen in photos released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a group of six trespassers ventured off the visitor boardwalk; two apparently urinated and one dropped a rock into what is arguably the world’s most famous geyser.
Outraged by what they saw on their home computers on the evening of May 4th, viewers of the Old Faithful webcam contacted park officials who then dispatched park rangers. The trespassers were apprehended as they returned to the boardwalk twenty minutes later.
According to PEER, the webcam footage shows that several of the “cone walkers” appeared to urinate on the geyser cone and that two of them are seen digging around the geyser catch basin, one of whom looks to have dropped a rock into the geyser itself. This is believed to be the first time webcams have been used in a National Park for this type of legal action.
In 2000, the Park Service placed a moratorium on all new webcams pending development of a strategy that addressed a broad spectrum of issues. Nine years later, a comprehensive webcam strategy has yet to be developed.
“We are on the threshold of cyber-parks where spectacular vistas can be viewed from the nearest screen, even one in the palm of your hand,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch in a statement.
“Technology can have both good and bad effects and that is why we have urged the National Park Service to carefully plan before they start installing the latest gadgets,” Ruch added. “If a tree falls in the forest, we will not only be able to hear it, but we can watch it topple and then run the video backward.”
The six individuals caught on tape, all of whom were employees of the park concessionaire, were cited by park officials and will appear before a magistrate on May 19th where they face possible fines and jail time.