Erika Stein to succeed Steve Prokop as Kalaupapa National Park superintendent

Acting Kalaupapa National Historical Park Superintendent Erika Stein has been selected to succeed Steve Prokop as the park’s superintendent, according to an announcement from the National Park Service.

Prokop was tapped to serve as superintendent of Redwood National and State Parks.

“Erika’s educational and professional background makes her the ideal candidate for this position. She is a well-respected leader with a proven track record of working collaboratively with the Kalaupapa community,” said Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz. “I’m delighted that she has accepted this assignment.”

Originally from Orange County, Calif., Stein, 32, has worked at the park for more than five years. She began as an archaeologist, then as the cultural resource program manager.

“During her time at Kalaupapa, she has been instrumental in growing the park’s cultural resource program, as well as its interpretation and education program,” park service officials said in the announcement. “Among her accomplishments are her work with the Hawaiian Legacy effort to perpetuate traditional knowledge and skills and her involvement with cultural resource education with local student groups.”

Stein also was part of the planning team for events celebrating the canonization of Saints Damien and Marianne. She will officially take on the position as superintendent late this month.

“I’m so grateful to Kalaupapa and its community for all the opportunities, support and encouragement that have already been afforded to me,” Stein said in the announcement. “I look forward to guiding this richly diverse park, with all its astounding cultural and natural resources, and will continue to work with the staff and community to preserve this very sacred place.”

In a phone interview Monday, Stein said that she has made Kalaupapa and Molokai her home. On July 5, she will marry a Molokai boy and become part of his large, extended family, she said.

Stein said that she recognized the park’s need for continuity and longevity in leadership.

“I don’t plan to be going anywhere in the immediate future,” she said.

Prior to working for the National Park Service, Stein was a contract archaeologist in Hawaii and California. She holds a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in maritime archaeology from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. As part of her graduate education, she participated in a field program in ethnography and marine sciences in the Solomon Islands.

Stein has a cat that has traveled with her since her graduate school days in Australia, as well as two dogs, according to the announcement. She participates in endurance athletic events, such as long-distance running, ocean swimming and triathlons. She has been a regular hiker of the Kalaupapa Trail for the past six years, and she also loves yoga and dancing hula with others in the Kalaupapa community.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park has 46 employees and was designated as a unit of the National Park System on Dec. 22, 1980. The park’s authorized boundaries encompass 8,725 acres of land and 2,000 acres of water, though only a small part of the park – 23 acres – is owned by the National Park Service. The remainder is owned by various other government and private organizations, which work cooperatively with the park service in managing the land.