The influence of Lake Michigan on the climate of the City of Ferrysburg is quite strong throughout most of the year. Westerly winds combine with water temperatures to create "lake effects," such as a late spring and winter temperatures that are slightly warmer than much of the rest of the State. Spring customarily comes late to the area due to the cold lake water chilling the incoming air. After warming up during the summer, the lake water stays warm long enough to moderate the first outbreaks of cold weather in fall.
During the summer months, the average daily maximum temperature stays near 75° (F) due to the cool lake breezes. Days with temperatures exceeding 90° (F) are rare, usually occurring only once or twice a year. The average daily temperature between the months of December and March is approximately 22° (F), but snow flurries are frequent and the average annual snowfall is 66 inches for the county. The average date of the last freezing temperature in the spring is May 6th, while the average date of the first freezing temperature in the fall is October 13th. Annual precipitation is 31.58 inches.
Topographic relief in the City of Ferrysburg varies distinctly from west to east. The western portion of the city, near Lake Michigan , is characterized by steep sand dunes near the lake, and less steeply-sloped sand hills slightly inland. Slopes ranging from 6 to 45 percent occur in this area. The central section of the City is relatively flat with some rolling terrain and slopes to six percent. The eastern portion of the City, bordering the north side of Spring Lake , is quite level terrain, often having poor drainage.
The Ottawa County Soil Survey of 1972 provides soil classifications that are grouped into various associations, each of which has a distinctive pattern of soil types, relief, and drainage. Soil characteristics are an important factor in determining the suitability of land for various types of uses. Of the soil associations within the study area, only two have problems that need to be considered in future development decisions:
Rubicon-Blown-out land-Deer Park Association - This association is made up of soils that are level to steep and well-drained, including sand dunes and plains. These are steep young sand dunes next to the lake, transitioning to stabilized older dunes and level to sloping sand plains inland from the lake. Limitations for recreational uses are no more than slight. The soils are good material for foundations for buildings, highways, and other structures.
Rubicon-Granby-Croswell-Au Gres Association - These soils are level and gently sloping, well-drained to very poorly drained, sandy lake plains and outwash plains. This association consists of sandy plains on which are scattered long, low, narrow, dunelike ridges. Rubicon and Croswell soils have few limitations for community development, except for droughtiness, which makes it difficult to establish lawns and shrubbery. Au Gres soils, however, are severely limited by excessive wetness and instability.
Areas with poor soils are often considered to be more appropriate for recreational uses than for more intense types of development. The presence of soils with a high water table, blown out areas, or muck can facilitate some recreational uses although soils with steep slopes or frequent flooding are generally avoided.
According to the Ottawa County Soil Survey, vegetation supported by Rubicon and Deer Park soils includes mature mixed forest of conifers and hardwoods, including sugar maple, red oak, hemlock, and white pine. Unstabilized blown-out land presents a major obstacle to both vegetation and recreational opportunities.
There are numerous concentrations of mixed coniferous and deciduous forests throughout the city that have significant ecological and aesthetic functions, provide habitat for wildlife, contribute to the rural character of the community, and provide opportunities for recreation (hiking, cross-country skiing, photography, etc.) and education. In particular, major wooded areas, as taken from 1989 aerial photography, are located in the northeast and northwest corners of the city with a number of small pockets of forest located throughout the entire city.
Water resources abound in the Ferrysburg area, with Lake Michigan providing a major recreational focus for boating, fishing and swimming. The Grand River, which enters Lake Michigan at Grand Haven, flows adjacent to the City of Ferrysburg , providing approximately 1.5 miles of river frontage. Spring Lake is the eastern boundary of the city, providing approximately 4.75 miles of lake frontage.
Open water, wetlands and rivers account for much of the land use in the City of Ferrysburg. Medium density residential development and open space comprise most of the remainder with the exception of the large undeveloped area of dunes and waterfront industrial uses. Located on the fringe of the developing Grand Haven area, the City of Ferrysburg draws a broad range of residential uses - from seasonal resort homeowners to year-round residents. (See Existing Land Use map.)
Some commercial, service and light industrial uses are located near the 3rd Street/U.S. 31 interchange mixed with single-family residential uses. Land uses on the Spring Lake waterfront include commercial marinas, medium density single family residential, and residential and residential/boat slip condominiums.
The petroleum storage tank facilities, sand mining operations, and material handling and stockpiling occupy large parcels of land west of U.S. 31 and north of the Grand River. These industries utilize the river for shipping and capitalize on the abundant supply of sand available for mining.
The land use pattern in the City has several implications for recreation planning:
1. There has been a significant loss in the last 5 years in the amount of undeveloped land in the City, providing less available land for future recreational facilities.
2. The U.S. 31 freeway, which extends through the middle of the City in a north/south direction, physically divides the City and impedes east-west movement within the City.
3. While the City has an abundance of water frontage, relatively little of the waterfront is publicly-accessible. While shoreline is accessible for pedestrians, the City facilities offer no public boat launch access to adjacent waterways.
4. Development just outside the City's boundary may have an impact on the use of City park facilities. For example, higher density projects such as the 462-unit apartment complex that was developed in Spring Lake Township, adjacent to the north boundary of Coast Guard Park, will have impacts on park uses and maintenance.
The majority of land in the City of Ferrysburg has been placed in low to medium density residential districts. Public and privately owned parks and recreation areas are generally allowed in these zones, either as a permitted or special use.
The main roadway facilities in the City are U.S. 31, a federal north/south expressway that provides access to every major community along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, and M-104 a state east/west highway that links the city with Spring Lake Village and I-96 to the east. At present, U.S. 31 is a four-lane limited access system from the Grand River Bridge to Ludington. North of Ludington, the highway is a two-lane free access road. U.S. 31 links Lake Michigan shoreline communities to major interstate routes and population centers to the south.
Public transportation is provided by Harbor Transit operated by the City of Grand Haven. This is on-demand, door-to-door service to and from Ferrysburg, Grand Haven, and Spring Lake Village.
The CSX Railroad tracks run north and south through Ferrysburg, carrying freight traffic only. Other nearby transportation systems include the Grand Haven and Muskegon County airports. The Grand Haven airport provides general aviation service while the Muskegon County airport, in Norton Shores , is served by commuter carriers.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers maintains the navigable channel in the Grand River from its mouth to the U.S. 31 Bridge. The channel is used extensively for recreational boating and for some commercial boat shipping to four docks in Ferrysburg and two docks in Grand Haven.