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

Created by student in LSS240 - Spring 2016

Reinterpretting Mount Holyoke Range Planning Unit

The Mount Holyoke Range Planning Unit consist of three State owned landscapes which are said to be among the best Massachusetts has to offer. Mount Holyoke Range State Park, Joseph Allen Skinner State Park and Mount Tom Reservation each offer a variety of recreational opportunities as well as accessible natural and cultural resources. Despite Mount Holyoke Range Planning Unit’s variety and quality of resources it is acknowledged by the State that the park’s unique natural and cultural characteristics are overshadowed by the dramatic scenic quality offered by the mountain ranges and their expansive trail-based recreational opportunities. This Libguide will highlight a variety of the natural and cultural resources within the Mount Holyoke Range Planning Unit to emphasize the unique and exciting cultural landscape resources that are right outside our window.


The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) of Massachusetts maintains the Planning Unit. The DCR is the governmental body which is in charge of protecting, promoting and enhancing the states natural, cultural and recreational resources for the well-being of all.

  • For more information about the DCR please go to here.



Cultural Landscape Resources within the Mount Holyoke Range Planning Unit

The planning unit is said to contain some of the highest quality resources in the Massachusetts Park System.  In a 2006 biodiversity assessment by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program the Planning unit ranked Mount Holyoke Range, Mount Tom and Joseph Allen Skinner as the fourth, sixth and tenth most important parks. 

The Planning Unit has the most accessible cultural resources within the Massachusetts State Park system ranging from sites that pre-date the arrival of Europeans to 20th century park buildings and structures. A majority of the cultural significance of the Planning Unit resided in archeological pre-contact archeological sites or architectural features still standing today . Some examples of cultural significance through archeological sites are Native American stone quarries and sensitive archeological sites. Some examples of the cultural significance lie within the buildings constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and two historic summit houses. This variety of sites allows us to see a glimpse of how humans have interacted with the Connecticut River Valley for centuries. 


The U.S. Department of Interior on May 24th, 2012 designated the Connecticut River National Blueway Designation which helps to recognize and support existing local conservation, recreation and restoration efforts. 

  • To learn more about the Connecticut River National Blueway announcement please go here.


The Massachusetts Audubon Society has designated this areas as an Important Bird Area (IBA). This IBA designation implies that these areas are providing essential habitat to one or more species of breeding, wintering or migrating birds. This designation provides increased awareness of the area's conservation value and needs.  

  • To learn more about the IBA designation please go here.


The DCR by law must consider public input when developing management plans which includes various local organizations. This means that the agency must make drafts available to the public for review and comment periods as well as hold public forums. 

The views within the Planning Area have drawn large numbers of visitor to the summit of Mount Holyoke and Mount Nonotuck for centuries.  In recent years the Planning Unit has established a way to interpret potential visitors to the State Parks. The distance from the park, age distribution, language spoken and income are important factors to understand the capacity of parks to be accessible to the community. The following are visitor prediction statistics from the 2013 Resource Management Plan for the Planning Unit.

  • Within the 2013 management report it was determined that the greatest number of park visitors traveled 20 or fewer miles (72.9%).
  • The age distribution from this report determined that the Planning Unit must be "child friendly" and "senior friendly" determined by the potential of 152,000 children in the vicinity and 99,000 senior in the area.
  • The language predominantly predicted to be spoken in the park is English with a population of 78.6% in the area however Spanish is spoken more frequently in the demographic areas than in the State as a whole, which suggests bilingual signage to be recommended.
  • In the surrounding areas these predictions found their is a higher number of lower income to medium income households and fewer high income households which highlight the importance that their is little to no cost for recreational opportunities in the region.