A group of Vancouver-based YouTubers, who run the channel High on Life, is facing a firestorm of criticism and misdemeanor charges after trespassing onto a protected natural site in Yellowstone National Park.
The four travel vloggers – Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh, Justis Cooper Price-Brown, and Parker Heuser – were caught on camera on May 14 straying off the trail at the national park in Wyoming and walking onto the famous Grand Prismatic Spring.
The spring is one of the biggest tourist draws of the park. It is the largest hot spring in the United States and features rainbow coloured rings around its edge thanks to its unique ecosystem.
However, it is strictly prohibited for tourists to leave the boardwalk surrounding the Grand Prismatic Spring – a rule clearly marked by signs throughout the park.
“The individuals approached the spring and took several photos or videos of themselves with an array of cameras,” read court documents .
“The individuals also can be seen reaching into the spring. The nearest boardwalk is approximately 25 yards from where they are located.”
According to the court documents, three of the four High on Life members face two criminal complaints. The fourth member has not been charged – Parker Heuser – because she was not identified through the video.
On Tuesday, an apology was posted to the High on Life Facebook fan page, noting that the group has since taken down its footage from beside the Grand Prismatic Spring.
“We did not respect the protected environment we were exploring, and we want to acknowledge our wrongdoing,” the post read.
“We got over zealous in our enthusiasm for this wonderful place. When standing at the face of such natural wonder, we were drawn to it. In an attempt to get the perfect shot, we acted in a way that doesn’t reflect our respect for the environment we were trying to capture. It was the wrong decision to make.”
According to the apology, the group plans to donate $5,000 to Yellowstone National Park. The post does not make mention of any criminal charges.
Global News reached out to the High on Life crew for additional comment, but received no response.
The High on Life website, where the vloggers sell their clothing line, has since gone offline.
However, this isn’t the first time the group has come under fire.
According to posts compiled by an Imgur user, the group was criticized in 2014 after posing like characters from Pokémon while atop Machu Picchu. The post also alleged one of the members had been caught “goofing around” and climbing the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany.
In March, the group uploaded a video to its YouTube page showing members using a wakeboard to ride the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah – another area that forbids visitors from straying off designated roads.
“The environment is fragile and needs to be treated with respect. When you drive, stay on established roads,” reads the tourist website for the salt flats.
Outrage over the group’s behaviour has even sparked a Change.org petition calling on Bud Light and Red Bull to drop sponsorship for the YouTubers. The petition has already garnered over 18,500 signatures.
Global News reached out to both Bud Light and Red Bull for comment on the petition; however, a request for comment was not immediately returned.