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Forest Park, a city park of 745 acres (3,010,000 m) designed following the principles of Frederick Law Olmsted, who is most famous for designing New York City's Central Park, is comparably diverse and ornate.
The city's economic base is diverse, featuring Massachusetts's wealthiest Fortune 100 company, Mass Mutual Insurance, as well as numerous universities and hospitals.
Many of the cities and towns include areas of forests, and Springfield itself, which in the early 1900s was nicknamed "The City in a Forest," features nature within its city limits and over 12% parkland. The Holyoke Range, Mount Tom Range, and numerous rolling hills, bluffs, and meadows feature extravagant homes from the Gilded Age, many of which surround New England's longest and largest river, the Connecticut River, which flows through the region.
Travelers are drawn to the Pioneer Valley by its lively college towns, such as Northampton and Amherst; the resurgent city of Springfield; its unspoiled nature, numerous parks, and recreational facilities, including New England's largest and most popular amusement park, Six Flags New England in Agawam; its cultural and historical sites, such as the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, the Springfield Armory National Historical Site, and the Basketball Hall of Fame on Springfield's riverfront.
(The sport of Volleyball was invented in Holyoke in 1895.) The city of Westfield features Westfield State University, founded by renowned education reformer Horace Mann.
Near to Westfield—approximately 15 miles west of Springfield—numerous outdoor opportunities are available, such as alpine skiing at Blandford Ski Area and the United States's oldest white-water rafting races on the 78.1 mile Westfield River, the longest Connecticut River tributary in Massachusetts.
Springfield features thousands of Victorian era Painted Lady mansions (like San Francisco's,) e.g., in the Mc Knight Historic District.
The Pioneer Valley includes approximately half of the southern Connecticut River Valley—an ancient rift valley created by the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge during the Triassic and Jurassic periods of the Mesozoic Era.
The upper Pioneer Valley region includes the smaller cities of Northampton and Greenfield, the county seats of Hampshire and Franklin counties.
census New England City and Town Area micropolitan districts of Amherst (in pink) and Greenfield (in orange), and the Springfield metropolitan NECTA (in yellow). The lower Pioneer Valley corresponds to the Springfield, Massachusetts metropolitan area, the region's urban center, and the seat of Hampden County.
The region known as the Pioneer Valley constitutes Massachusetts's portion of the fertile Connecticut River Valley and the hill and mountain towns to its east and west.
The following three counties—from north to south, and each with a different character—encompass the Pioneer Valley: Franklin County is the most rural county in Massachusetts and thus reminiscent of southern Vermont, which it borders.