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Community Description

Berrien Springs was originally named after the honorable Attorney General John Macpherson Berrien who was once a member of President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet.  The term Springs was added to Berrien in 1835 at the request of merchant Robert E. Ward after a mineral springs was discovered near the town.  Berrien Springs served as the county seat of government from 1837 to 1894 which added to the town’s growth.  The Historic Court House is still in place within the Village and operates as an educational museum.  The Village of Berrien Springs was plotted in 1831 but not officially incorporated until 1867.
The Village of Berrien Springs covers 0.9 square miles of land and is located in southwest Lower Michigan, in central Berrien County.  It is completely surrounded by Oronoko Charter Township to the west and Berrien Township to the east.  The village is located in the Lake Chapin Area of Michigan along the banks of the St. Joseph River.  An important historical note is that the Lake Chapin Area lies along the Great Sauk Trail, a trail-waterway extending from Montreal to New Orleans.
The Village of Berrien Springs is in close proximity to Andrews University and the Berrien County Youth Fairgrounds.  This diversity in physical location and local attractions yields a rich variety of citizens as well as a significant amount of traffic within the Village limits.  US 31 and the St. Joseph Valley Parkway link the rural-based farming community surrounding the Greater Berrien Springs area with the Cities of St. Joseph and Niles.  More than 18,000 vehicles pass through this area on any given day, with a marked increase in traffic in the summertime due to the County fair attractions and various other activities and events.  The creation of the Expo Center at the Berrien County Youth Fairgrounds would impact the Village of Berrien Springs.  The completion of the St. Joseph Valley Parkway – US-31 project has increased the amount of traffic and visitors to the Village of Berrien Springs and its surrounding area.  There is a stronger draw for commuter traffic to and from the area as people find available land and less crowded schools attractive alternatives to more urbanized.  In addition, the completion of the St. Joseph Valley Parkway includes a major reconstruction of an interchange connection to Interstate 94, the major east-west thoroughfare connection Detroit and Chicago.  Employment and shopping opportunities in and around the urban areas of Kalamazoo, Michigan and South Bend, Indiana could lead to more families locating around the Berrien Springs Area and consequently, increasing the need for parks and recreation facilities and activities.  Local fruit stands and wineries also impact the Village of Berrien Springs.
Over 10,000 years ago glaciers advanced southward from Canada and covered Berrien County.  Because this glaciations was so extensive, the landscape was heavily impacted.  Evidence of this includes the variations in relief in the Berrien Springs area as well as the large numbers of lakes, streams, and wetlands.  The Village of Berrien Springs is located in the St. Joseph River Valley at approximately 650 feet above sea level.  The St. Joseph River runs along the eastern edge of Berrien Springs Village limits and forms the border between Oronoko Charter and Berrien Townships.
Lake Michigan has a great effect on the climate of Berrien County.  The lake is responsible for keeping Berrien County cooler in the spring and summer and warmer in the fall and winter.  This results in a growing season that is approximately 162 days.  The average temperature is around 27 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter with an average daily minimum temperature of 20 degrees F.  In the summer the average temperature is around 70 degrees F and the average daily maximum temperature is 81 degrees F.  The total annual precipitation is 37 inches with 56% falling from April thru September.  The average seasonal snowfall is 70 inches, with an average of 61 days that have at least 1 inch or more of snow on the ground.  In the summer the average amount of sunshine is around 67% and in the winter the average amount decreases to around 37%.
The climate and weather patterns of the area allow residents and visitors to enjoy four seasons of utilizing the recreational facilities.  During the summer, the parks, trails and open spaces have many users of all ages.  During the winter months nearby snowshoeing, cross country skiing and snowmobile trails offer ample recreational activities.  The St. Joseph River and Lake Chapin offer superb boating and sport fishing opportunities year round and attracts visitors nationwide.
The soils in the Lake Chapin area are also the result of glaciers; therefore, specific soil types vary widely in texture, permeability, stability, composition and other characteristics throughout the community.  However, soils in the area are fairly well suited for construction purposes as well as agricultural uses.  Most of the Berrien Springs area is comprised of the Riddles-Crosier Oshtemo Association soil.  This soil has somewhat poor drainage and is located on till plains and moraines.  The permeability is moderately slow.  It should be noted that these are just generalizations of the soil in and around Berrien Springs and are meant to provide a broad understanding of the soil conditions.  To determine the suitability and soil conditions of a particular site further investigation would be needed.
Water Resources
The Lake Chapin area as well as all of Berrien County is blessed with an abundance of freshwater lakes, rivers and streams.  The St. Joseph River bisects the Lake Chapin area.  Just south of Old US 31 the St. Joseph River is impounded; resulting in the formation of Lake Chapin.  This bounty of freshwater serves as a haven for wildlife and is a valuable recreational resource.  The St. Joseph River and Lake Chapin provide numerous recreation opportunities including year round fishing and boating.  Both water bodies are a popular destination for locals and visitors alike and the Village wishes to continue to provide facilities for recreational use on them.
Wetlands play a key role in environmental quality and are quite common throughout the Berrien Springs area.  They act as filters for lakes and rivers.  Wetlands offer a natural system for minimizing sedimentation and non-point source runoff into the St. Joseph River.  They help in flood prevention and supply key habitat areas for wildlife to thrive.  Preservation of wetlands and marshes is not only extremely important to the future of the St. Joseph River and Lake Chapin, but ultimately, to the Berrien Springs Area itself.  Groundwater is the source of public water supply for the Village of Berrien Springs.  Currently, three wells supply approximately 150,000 gallons per day to the Village’s water system.
Vegetation, Wildlife and Fish
The wealth and diversity of natural resources found in and around Berrien Springs provide excellent opportunities for recreation.  Vegetation in the area varies greatly depending mainly on land use.  Forested areas can easily be found with a large variety of different species of hard and softwood trees including Beech, Ash, Maple, Oak, Hickory, Red and White Pines as well as many others.  Many factors influence the types of vegetation that are found in an area.  Examples of these factors are soil types, availability of water, and history of land use, logging and slope.
The area surrounding the Village of Berrien Springs has a variety of fruit and vegetable farms.  The area is known for its wide variety of farms including U-Pick farms.  Some of the produce that sprouts up from the surrounding soils include apples, pears, strawberries, blackberries, blue berries, raspberries, grapes, corn, soybeans, Christmas trees and a wide variety of garden vegetables.  The area is also becoming known for its local vineyards and wineries.  These different crops attract numerous visitors to the Berrien Springs area and many of them utilize the commercial and recreational facilities while in the area.
Wildlife and fish in the region are equally as diverse as that of the vegetation.  White-tailed deer are frequently seen near Berrien Springs and are a popular game species for many hunters.  This area is also a major migratory route for a large variety of songbirds and waterfowl and is a popular destination for bird watchers.  Bird watching has become a widespread recreational activity in the past several years and the Berrien Springs area provides many different species to observe.  The St. Joseph River is a popular area for sport fishermen.  Lake Chapin is also excellent for bass and bluegill fishing.
Zoning/Land Use
The location of the Village of Berrien Springs, as well as its natural features, has contributed greatly to the way in which it has evolved and been developed.  The residential sections are located in areas that can take advantage of the natural beauty of rivers, streams, and lakes in the area while the business district, as well as industrial zones, are more strategically positioned on or near the major transportation routes.  The Village of Berrien Springs has enacted zoning regulations and encouraged land use patterns that minimize industrial contact with the St. Joseph River, Lake Chapin and the identified wetlands.
Areas designated for Residential Zones surround the downtown area.  Light industrial use and limited and/or general manufacturing are limited to sites on the western fringe of the Village of Berrien Springs.  Local and General Commercial areas are located along the North-South route into the Village of Berrien Springs and its town center.  Several open space areas, both developed and natural, can be found along the St. Joseph River and adjacent to Lake Chapin as well as spread throughout the Village.  The village has little land available within the current boundaries for new residential or industrial developments.
The Lake Chapin area is located within close proximity to many major transportation routes that provide easy access to large urban areas.  M-139 is the major road that runs through the Village of Berrien Springs connecting them to Niles and South Bend to the south and Benton Harbor/St
Joseph to the northwest.  In 2000, M-139 (Old US-31) had a 24-hour annual average traffic volume of 18,400 in the Berrien Springs area according to Michigan Department of Transportation figures.
Berrien Springs is located fewer than 10 miles southeast of Interstate 94, which connects the major metropolitan centers of Detroit and Chicago.  Detroit is located 200 miles to the east and Chicago is 100 miles to the southwest.  Interstate 196 is 10 miles east of Bangor and it connects Grand Rapids to the north and the twin cities of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor to the south.  Rail service is also available to people in the Berrien Spring area; Amtrak provides service daily to Chicago from St. Joseph and Niles.
Air travel in the area is most easily accessed at the South Bend Regional airport.  Other options for commercial travel include airports in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Chicago and Detroit, which are all within 200 miles of Berrien Springs.  The Jerry Tyler Memorial Airport in Niles as well as the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport in Benton Harbor service private airplanes and jets.  Andrews University has an airport that is utilized by visitors and persons of the University and the Greater Berrien Springs Area.
The 2010 Census Survey indicates that the population of the Village of Berrien Springs has experienced a decline in population from 1862 to 1800.  The full 2010 census report is not yet available.  A number of social and economic factors impact the prediction of growth in the areas.  Any substantial change in the number of residents in the area will have a direct impact on the recreation facility needs and perceptions of the area.  In 1980 the Village of Berrien Springs had a population of 2,042.  In 1990 the population decreased 5.6% to 1,927.  According to the 2000 Census Bureau, the population decreased another 3.5% to 1,862.  The 2010 Census shows another decrease of 3.3%.
Recreational facilities that allow residents and visitors to enjoy the tranquil natural surrounds of the area are an asset to the Village.  The Village desires to continue to attract visitors and make Berrien Springs more of a destination rather than a pass thru town.
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