The mission of the Big 400 is to prepare and execute plans which stimulate commerce in the communities sharing a common border local and state public lands, while concurrently partnering with the stewards of these public lands to promote and encourage their use and preservation.
The Big 400 began as a project spearheaded by the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce seeking to establish an economic development strategy that linked the Waterloo Recreation Area to the business community of Chelsea, Michigan. A working committee was formed that included representatives from 7 key stakeholder organizations:
Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce, Chelsea Public Schools, City of Chelsea, Waterloo Recreation Area, Chelsea Center for the Arts, Legacy Land Conservancy, and The Conservation Fund.
A program developed by The Conservation Fund, “Balancing Nature and Commerce in Communities that Neighbor Public Lands” became the strategic road map for this endeavor. Once the Chelsea team completed the training, they understood the success of this project demanded expansion to other regional partners and organizations.
Neighboring communities of Dexter, Manchester, Stockbridge, Pinckney and East Jackson County were invited to join the team along with the Pinckney Recreation Area. Additionally, the Convention and Visitors Bureaus of Jackson County, Ann Arbor Area, and Ypsilanti joined the effort. The committee currently represents 4 counties, 4 municipalities, 3 Convention and Visitors Bureaus, 2 State Recreation Areas, land and nature conservancies.
It encompasses a 20 mile by 20 mile area, hence the term “Big 400”.