Gaines Charter Township is located in south central Kent County. It is bounded by the City of Kentwood to the north and Caledonia Township on the east and Byron Township on the west. Leighton Township in Allegan County borders the Township to the south. The expanding urbanization of the metropolitan area has encroached into the northern and western portions of Gaines Charter Township. The development of the Southbelt expressway (M-6), traversing the northern portion of the Township, has resulted in further development.
Gaines Charter Township is located thirty-five miles east of Lake Michigan, which plays a large role in defining the climate characteristics of this part of the state. Lake Michigan significantly modifies the weather systems that predominately travel from the west and southwest, effectively moderating the extremes in temperatures during the summer and winter and extending for longer periods the cooler temperatures of spring and the warmer temperatures of fall. Another important effect of the lake on this region's climate is the predominance of cloudy weather during the fall, early and late winter, and spring when the temperature differences between the lake and incoming air masses result in the formation of clouds. Lake Michigan's influence on the weather in Gaines Charter Township is more apparent when compared to areas located further east.
Precipitation in the form of rain averages about thirty inches annually with snow accumulation during the year totaling about 73 inches.
April, June and September are the rainiest months, averaging over 3.3 inches each month. Nearly 20 inches of snow on the average will fall during January, the snowiest month. Snow can be expected to fall between the months of October and April, with snow cover often continuing through the months of December and February.
Extreme cold or hot temperatures are infrequent during the year. Temperatures that exceed 90° F occur on the average about ten days out of the year while an average of eight days annually experience temperatures below 0° F. Daily maximum temperatures during the months of June, July and August average about 81° F and during the months of December, January, and February, about 32° F. The frost-free period extends for about 170 days out of the year.
The climate in this region is amenable to a variety of outdoor recreational activities. Summer conditions encourage a broad range of recreational activities that may occasionally be suspended during the infrequent and brief period of rain or cooler temperatures. Similarly, winter temperatures and snowfall attract numerous participants in outdoor activities, such as sledding, skiing, skating and snowmobiling.
The soils found in Gaines Charter Township are characteristic of glaciated landscape. Areas of sand, clay, loam, and muck can be found throughout the Township, often associated with a glaciated landform, such as outwash plains, drainage networks and morainal deposits. The basic soil associations that have been generally identified in the Township include the following descriptions summarized from the "1986 Soil Survey of Kent County."
Ithaca-Rimer-Perrinton predominate in the Township covering most of the northern, western and central portion of the community. These soils are nearly level to gently rolling, well drained to somewhat poorly drained, depending on location and slopes associated with diviges, ridges, and drainageways. Loamy and sandy soils formed in loamy and sandy deposits.
Kalamazoo-Oshtemo-Spinks soils are found in the south-west portion of the community. These are nearly level to rolling, well drained, loamy and sandy soiled formed in loamy and sandy materials
Chelsea-Thetford-Selfridge soils are found in the north-central and north-west portion of the community. These are gently rolling to nearly level, somewhat excessively drained and somewhat poorly drained, with sandy soils formed in sandy and loamy materials.
Houghton-Cohoctad-Ceresco soils are found in the northwest portion of the Township extending into Byron Township and a small area in the south-east corner of Gaines Charter Township. These are nearly level, somewhat poorly drained soils associated with floodplains along major streams and rivers and in basinlike areas. They include mucky and loamy soils formed in herbaceous organic materials or loamy alluvial deposits.
Metamora-Teasdale-Tekenink soils are found in the south-west corner of the Township. This area is nearly level and undulating well drained and somewhat poorly drained containing loamy soils formed in loamy and sandy materials.
Kibbie-Dixboro-Thetford soil association occupy a limited area in the south-east corner of the Township. This area is nearly level and undulating but somewhat poorly drained. Soils are loamy and sandy soils formed in loamy, silty and sandy materials.
Marlette-Chelsea-Boyer soils are found in the central western area of the Township and spanning south-east. This area is gently rolling to very steep and somewhat excessively drained and well drained. Soils are loamy and sandy formed in loamy and sandy deposit.
These seven soil associations present various limitations with respect to the capability of the soil types to accommodate different uses, depending on slopes, drainage, texture, expansiveness and other characteristics. Recreational uses of these soils for certain activities should be determined on a site-specific basis. Generally, soils that can accommodate intensive activities should be level, well drained, free of stones and boulders, and capable of handling intensive foot traffic. Less intensive or passive recreational activities place fewer demands on the types of soils that can be developed, although these soil capabilities must still be carefully evaluated.
According to the Kent County Soil Survey, the Kalamazoo-Oshtemo-Spinks Soil Association represents some of the best-suited soils in Kent County for recreational developments. The topographic surface features of the Township are predominately the result of glacial action and, to a lesser and localized extent, more recent erosion and deposition actions.
Land use patterns in Gaines Charter Township are characteristic of a changing community. In many parts of the Township, agricultural land uses are interspersed with small centers of population where residential, commercial, institutional, and some industrial activities have located. The community of Dutton in Sections 2 and 11 and Cutlerville adjoining Byron Township, contain a variety of developments that have clustered into this small community. The northern portion of the Township has experienced considerable growth in recent years. Such developments as Crystal Springs in Sections 8 and 9, Clocktower Plaza and The Crossings in Section 5 and the Steelcase Research Center in Section 1 are all indicative of the extensive private investment that has occurred in Gaines Charter Township in the recent past.
The transportation network within the Township also serves to attract different developments. The traditional grid pattern of country roads provides excellent access to virtually all portions of the Township. In addition, the Southbelt expressway provides improved access, resulting in further development pressure within the northern two miles of the community. Industrial developments are found in Section 1 along 60th Street between Patterson and East Paris and in the community of Dutton. Division Avenue, which represents the Township's western border, is characterized by strip commercial and light industrial developments along its corridor from Grand Rapids in the north to Cutlerville to the south.
Regionally, the southern portion of the Grand Rapids Metropolitan area has been among the fastest growing areas in southwestern Michigan. In Gaines Charter Township, the Market Place is an up-and-coming urban area, surrounding the developing M-6 Southbelt Expressway, which traverses Gaines Charter Township.
The M-6 Southbelt provides Gaines Charter Township with one interchange in the Township at Kalamazoo Avenue, and two additional interchanges immediately adjacent to the Township at U.S. 131 and M-37. Along side are businesses meeting the demand of freeway drivers coming from and going to Grand Rapids.
Plants and Wildlife
Today, it is difficult to imagine that Gaines Charter Township was once covered with thick forests of pine, oak, maple and beech. Following the intense logging of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the rural portions of the Township are characterized by farm fields and other cultivated lands. Remnant second-growth woodlots represent an important resource for their recreational opportunities and their aesthetic qualities in a rural landscape.
The scattered woodlots, open fields, and the few surface water features, such as the streams and wetlands, are habitats that support certain wildlife populations within the Township. Rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, opossum, and deer are commonly found in this area as are pheasants, ducks, and geese. These particular species are considered important game animals, but they also possess certain intrinsic values within the ecosystem, as well as for the simple enjoyment of observing them in the natural environment, as a recreational activity.
Gaines Charter Township is divided into three major drainage basins. These include the Plaster Creek basin which drains most of the northeastern and central portion of the Township and the Buck Creek basin which drains the northwestern portion of the Township. Both of these drainage basins are part of the Grand River watershed which is drained by the Grand River located about seven miles north of the Township. In the southeastern portion of the Township a drainage basin is found which eventually drains to Duncan Lake in Barry County, which eventually outlets into the Thornapple River.
There are very few surface water resources in the Township. In addition to tributaries to Buck Creek and Plaster Creek, the only water features include Hanna Lake in Section 26 and Martin Lake in Section 28. The few wetland areas in the Township are widely scattered and often associated with one of the streams or drains. Consequently, opportunities for water-based recreation are very limited in the Township.