Forest Park (Springfield, Massachusetts)

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Forest Park, on the banks of the Connecticut River in Springfield, Massachusetts, is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States, lying on 735 acres (297 ha) of land. During the winter holiday season it features the nationally renowned Bright Nights light festival, a 2.6 mile high-tech lighting display.


In 1884, Springfielder O.H. Greenleaf offered 65 acres (26 ha) for the establishment of a park to be named Forest Park. Shortly after, approximately 178 acres (72 ha) were donated by wealthy philanthropist Everett Hosmer Barney. Initially, Barney made his fortune as a Civil War arms producer and later as a businessman, developing clamp-on ice skates and rollerskates. In 1890 Barney built an elaborate, turreted 2 12-story Victorian mansion on a hill at the west end of his estate, which is now Forest Park. The Barney Mansion featured a spectacular view of the Connecticut River and Metro Center Springfield. Greenleaf and Barney convinced several of their wealthy friends and neighbors to donate much of the remaining land that would become the 735-acre Forest Park. The bulk of this land was, at the time, in the town of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Ultimately, Longmeadow ceded control of the park to the City of Springfield. There is no proof to the long-repeated assertion that Frederick Law Olmsted designed the park, although the park does mimic Olmstedian design and theory and may have been designed by his firm after his retirement.

The Barney Mansion was used for park events until the early 1950s, by which time it was considered a fire hazard due to its lack of sprinklers. In the 1950s about 50 acres (20 ha) of the park, including 15 acres (6.1 ha) of the former Barney estate, were taken to construct the Springfield/Longmeadow sections of Interstate 91, which severed the places' connections to the Connecticut River. Barney's house stood atop the hill at the northwest corner of the park, and the highway construction may have threatened its foundations, so assuming it was razed. Barney's stained glass windows were moved to a house in Palmer, Massachusetts where the demolition contractor lived at the time. The mausoleum of Barney's son and a carriage house still survive from the estate, along with many remnants of an extensive arboretum and water gardens planted by Barney around 1900. The developer of the Forest Park neighborhood [1] continued this theme by planting many interesting specimen trees, especially around Magnolia Terrace. This historic neighborhood with many fine examples of Victorian houses abuts the park on the north, while a small enclave of Springfield's stately brick colonial homes and the town of Longmeadow, Massachusetts borders the park to the south.


Among the Forest Park's notable year-round attractions are the Forest Park Zoo, which features large cats, bears, monkeys, and several playgrounds; an ice hockey and ice-skating rink, Cyr Arena; several baseball diamonds and grandstands; a rose garden; a bocce court; a lawn bowling court; basketball and tennis courts; an aquatic park; several promenades; a beach volleyball court; several tree groves; picnic areas; America's first public swimming pool (1899;) ponds with various waterfowl, and an exhibit of ancient dinosaur tracks.

The ruggedly contoured valley of Pecousic Brook occupies more than half of the south side of the Forest Park. This area has been left largely Naturalist in style, although it features many walking trails and a few elegant bridges. It is home to many species of birds and wildlife.

The statue at the entrance to Forest Park was created by Peter Wolf Toth and is part of the Trial of the Whispering Giants. The statue represents Omiskanoagwiak.

Since 1970, the Environmental Center for Our Schools (or ECOS, as it is commonly called) takes all Springfield public school students in grades 4 through 7 on a two-day environmental learning outing in Forest Park. The headquarters of this organization is located in Forest Park.[1]

Camp STAR[edit]

During Summer, Camp STAR/Angelina is an inclusive camp for children of all abilities, ages 3 to 22 years old. Some of the special needs populations the camp has worked with include: developmental delays, ADD/ADHD, emotional problems, learning disabilities, and visual and hearing impairments, to name just a few. Camp STAR/Angelina is a 6 week summer program. The camp is located on the outskirts of Forest Park off Trafton Road and activities include swimming, sports, games, crafts, field trips and an end of camp variety show.

Bright Nights[edit]

Bright Nights at Forest Park is a national attraction during the Christmas and Chanukah seasons. Bright Nights is a lighting spectacle that features time and color coordinated lighting exhibits. Trees and sculptures are decorated to look like various scenes and characters, including many from the works of Springfield native Dr. Seuss. Many scenes are animated; others are simply decorative. One of the spectacles' most elaborate exhibits is a replica of Everett Barney's mansion. Viewers in automobiles queue up to drive for approximately 2 miles along a meandering path through the park to see the displays. Each year Bright Nights changes and becomes more elaborate. [2]


  1. ^ Environmental Center for Our Schools: Introduction to ECOS for Parents. (2008-09-02). Retrieved on 2013-08-02.

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