Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

The man recently selected to lead Redwood National Park has a love for the ocean and experience in Northern California park management.

Steve Prokop, who is currently superintendent at Kalaupapa National Historical Park in Hawaii, will assume his Crescent City position in early April for the co-operatively managed Redwood National and State Parks. Jeff Bomke is the sector manager of the three state parks within the partnership.

"I'm really excited about it," Prokop said in a telephone interview this week. "I look at it as a real adventure and an opportunity to make a difference with one of the most beautiful resources in California, and it's an honor for me to be part of a team to take care of such a special place."

A native of New Haven, Conn., Prokop started working for the National Park Service in 1976 as a lifeguard at Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey and Golden Gate National Recreation Area during the summers while he attended college at the University of Connecticut.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in marketing in 1978, Prokop was hired as a permanent park ranger/lifeguard at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. He served in many capacities there from 1978 through 2001, including supervisory park ranger and deputy chief ranger. In 1993 he received a master's degree in public administration from San Francisco State University.

Prokop regulary enjoys long distance ocean swimming, including a competition 2.5 miles long. Now that's he's leaving Hawaii's warm waters, "I'll just have to get a wetsuit," he said.

Prokop's tenure at Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which is considered a sacred site by Hawaiian natives, might prove useful in Redwood Parks, where part of the job involves constant sensitivity to sacred tribal sites and co-management of resources with the Yurok Tribe and others.

"I've worked with a lot of the organizations representing Native American interests," Prokop said.

The indigenous people of Kalaupapa, a large isolated peninsula on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, were forcibly removed in 1865 and 1895 from the land they inhabited for 900 years.  From 1866 to 1969, the peninsula, separate from the rest of Molokai by 2,000 feet sea cliffs, was used to isolate Hawaiians afflicted with Hansen's disease, better known as leprosy.

"There are still Hansen's disease patients that have chosen to remain there because it's a really beautiful place," Prokop said."There are 17 folks that remain at the park."

During his tenure as Kalaupapa's superintendent since 2008, Prokop had a lead role in developing the first general management plan for the park since its establishment in 1980, according to a NPS press release."Prokop also oversaw a multi-million dollar construction project to repair the Kalaupapa Pier that required special attention to sensitive coral reef and endangered species along with submerged cultural resources," according to the release.

From 2001 to 2004, Prokop was chief ranger at WhiskeytownNational Recreation Area near Shasta, were he worked to reduce impacts of large-scale marijuana grows on public lands.

As chief ranger at Cape Cod National Seashore from 2004 to 2008, Prokop worked with off-road vehicle groups and conservation groups to keep open an off-road vehicle corridor while still protecting endangered shorebirds, according to the release.

"Steve is an excellent choice for this park," said Regional Director Chris Lehnertz in the release. "His experience forging and maintaining partnerships with different groups at Kalaupapa will help tremendously in managing the varied resources at Redwood."

"I look forward to working together in a spirit of cooperation and understanding with the employees and park partners at Redwood National and State Parks to help ensure the long-term preservation, protection, and interpretation of the incredible natural resources and cultural resources of the parks," Prokop said in the release.

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