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LSS240: 2016 Student Guide Reinterpreting the Landscape of the Pioneer Valley

Created by student in LSS240 - Spring 2016

Reinterpreting Mount Holyoke Range State Park

Mount Holyoke Range State Park runs along the seven-mile ridge line from Hadley to Belchertown. This 3,000 acre State Park  is considered to have the largest variety of local culture, history and ecological significance. The majority of the State Park was acquired through the acquisition of land in fee or easements with the largest areas being acquired during 1975. Efforts to protect and preserve this landscape continues to this day and exemplifies decades of partnership from state, federal and private preservationist efforts.

Cultural Landscape Resources within the Mount Holyoke Range State Park

Topography and Recreation

The highest point in the park is Mount Norwottuck which rises 1,106 feet above sea level. The predominant recreation activity throughout the park is trail-based recreation with approximately 80 miles of marked trails. These trails offer a variety of scenic overlooks which allow visitors to take in the natural landscape.


This State Park contains thirty state-listed rare species. As a result nearly 60% of the Mount Holyoke Range State Park (2,721 acres) has been designated as Priority Habitat under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.

In 2010, MassWildlife and The Nature Conservancy issued BioMap2 which presents a guide to conserving the biodiversity of Massachusetts. This map identifies two types of important conservation landscapes: Core Habitat and Critical Natural Landscape.

  • Core Habitat is critical for the long term occupancy of these rare species and a variety of other species of conservation concern.

            ​- This State Park consists of 91.41% or 4,194.93  acres of Core Habitat.

  • Critical Natural Landscape provides habitat for wide-ranging native wildlife by maintaining connectivity among habitats through supporting intact ecological processes, enhancing ecological resilience and ensuring the long-term integrity of the landscape.

     - This State Park consists of 96.98% or 4,450.13 acres of Critical Natural Landscape.



A majority of the culturally significant sites that are found in the Mount Holyoke Range State Park are archeological in nature and presents early settlement and continue to represent industrial development patterns from the 19th century on. A majority of these sites are located in the south slopes of the range including a few pre-contact sites.




Bare Mountain is a prominent feature in the landscape and contains unique building that tells the story of our nation. This mountain played a large role in U.S. history by maintaining a bunker that was would be used as the command center for all U.S. Forces during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “The Bunker” was built in 1957 by the Strategic Air Command out of Omaha. This concrete bunker dug into the side of Bare Mountain was expanded in 1962 in reaction to the missile Crisis. Today “The Bunker” now houses the repository for the Five Colleges.



This Park was built through partnerships across state, federal and private lands. This diverse partnership has been investigated throughout scholarly work such as Cultivating a Past Essay on the History of Hadley, Massachusetts, Chapter 15 - Preserving Mount Holyoke written by Ethan Carr  that provide an in-depth example of the complex partnerships needed to sustain the unique cultural landscapes. A few prominent local stakeholders that are playing a large role in the preservation of Mount Holyoke Range can be found below:

  • Save the Mountain (STM) is a community organization that was established in 1999 after concerns over a proposal to purchase the mountainside of the Mount Holyoke Range. They advocate to preserve both the historic and natural element of both the Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom Range.

  • Hadley Neighbors for Sensible Development was established in 2003 and was formed to make the community aware of large-scale commercial development in the area that could impact the community.

  • Land trust such as the Kestrel Land Trust and Valley Community Land Trust play a pivotal role in engaging stakeholders from private landowners, governmental agencies, citizen groups and other organizations to preserve landscapes and the culture they represent in the heart of the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts.

In Fiscal Year 2012 there was an estimated 36,420 visitors to the State Park. Of this visitors over half (57.2%) were visiting from within 10 mile radius of the park. A majority of the visitors (98.2%) came from households where English was the predominant language spoken. Events occur every year such as the 7 Sisters Trail Race that brings awareness to the beauty of this landscape and encourages more people to visit.