From HNHA To HPPA With Kathy English and Margot Griffith

From HNHA To HPPA With Kathy English and Margot Griffith

Kathy English and Margot Griffith served as both regular employees and as Hawaii Natural History Association (HNHA)/Hawaiʻi Pacific Park Association (HPPA) executive directors from 1976  to 2021. HNHA rebranded to HPPA in 2011. This interview was conducted jointly with them during the yearlong celebration of HPPA’s 90th anniversary. HPPA administrative headquarters are located inside Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (HAVO).

The Beginning

Kathy: I started in March of 1976 and had previously been working at Volcano Art Center on their board and part time in the gallery as bookkeeper/treasurer. I was initially hired by HNHA to take care of the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes park library. In 1977 I opted to stick with just HNHA; I went from an administrative assistant to a business manager, and some years later to the executive director. I was the first to have that title.

Margot: January 15, 1987, was my first day—the day before the expanded Jaggar Museum and HNHA park store was dedicated at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes. I had been working at Volcano Art Center, a kid out of college with an English degree. I was hired as frontline part time at Jaggar, the second person to be hired at there, and I was also Kathyʻs assistant. The opening of the Jaggar Museum store really changed things for HNHA and that may have been the association’s first million dollar (grossing) year.

Early Days

Kathy: The size of the organization has changed over the years. When I started, the inventory system was a brownish binder with cards in it, and we tracked inventory by marking on those cards manually. If we’d ever lost that binder it would have been a disaster. The first computer HNHA had was purchased around 1982 or 1983. Early in my career we still had the HAVO Wahaʻulu Visitor Center in Kalapana, which burned down in 1989. At Haleakalā we only had a park store, then called “bookstore”, at the summit. In addition to Kīlauea Visitor Center, we had our small store at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

There was a long time that HNHA did not have our own employees on the frontline. NPS staff were handling the sales, especially at the smaller parks and areas. The first HNHA frontline employees were at our Hawaiʻi Volcanoes stores, and during one of the eruptions of Kīlauea Volcano in the early years of my tenure, none of the park staff was available so HNHA ran the visitor centers, too.

Margot: Eventually it became part of the NPS Director’s Order #32 that NPS staff should not be involved and hands-on. We had three HNHA stores at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes before Wahaʻula was lost to fire and lava. At Haleakalā National Park we added the Kīpahulu visitor center and store by 1986. The Rivers of Fire video came out in 1985 on Beta and VHS!

A Typical Day

Kathy: A certain amount of time every day was spent keeping the books, juggling staff, making the schedule, but there was also looking at possible new sales items, and interfacing with NPS staff. The creation of publications was more hands-on because the files and proofs were not digital.

Margot: Initially, both of us were a lot more hands-on, counting money and handling deposits. There was no payroll service or online anything, just clunky credit card machines and handwritten checks. Kathy came back in 2009, after retiring in early 2005, and helped with the last edition of our publication Volcanoes of the National Parks of Hawaiʻi.


Kathy: It seems to me that you are hearing a lot more different languages now, from all over the world.

The advent of computers brought a lot of change. Technology changes and buyer taste changes. T-shirts were on the no-go list in the early 80s per NPS.

Margot: There used to be a lot more visitors and buses from Japan, which is something that probably changed with COVID. And smartphones have changed everything. Digital everything! Something that hasn’t changed is the feeling I get, in any of the parks, of being able to walk away from the busy areas and feeling like you are alone.


Kathy: I was fortunate to fly over Puʻu Ōʻō vent and Mauna Loa Volcano in the 1980s when they were both erupting, in a park helicopter. Once we were invited by park staff to a hawksbill sea turtle nest hatching. I have seen so many different eruptions, and met so many interesting people.

Margot: A game changer was the association rebranding in 2011, which expanded our capacity to be able to help the parks, and it opened up the logo products line so we could expand park support from sales.

Going Forward

Kathy: I think it’s critical to continue to be a financially healthy organization, to keep some reserves on hand for the downtimes that you know will come.

Margot: HPPA has, and must, maintain that even keel financial stability through change and adversity, and maintain the unwavering dedication to the mission with that aloha spirit that we bring. Our people have a great depth of knowledge about the parks and communities where they work and live.


Mahalo to Kathy and Margot for sharing their experiences with us!

If you wish to know a bit more about our timeline and that of cooperating associations:

If you would like to shop to support our national parks partners in Hawaiʻi and American Samoa:

HPPA is a member of the Public Lands Alliance:




Hawaii Pacific Parks Association Location Map
Hawaiʻi Pacific Parks Association. P.O. Box 74 Hawaii National Park, 96718 HI