Since late last year, almost a quarter of Illinois state park superintendents have retired, taking with them in many cases 30 or more years of experience that will be hard to replace.
The loss of that institutional knowledge is one more cost of the state's deep financial crisis. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is among state agencies hit hard by years of budget cuts.
The on-site park superintendents play an important role in managing the state's natural heritage, from Starved Rock along the Illinois River to tiny natural sites in every corner of the state.
At least 23 park superintendents and another half-dozen assistant superintendents have left since late 2011.
The exits appear to be driven by concerns about potential changes in Illinois' underfunded pension system.