The Big 400 – so named because the area is roughly 20 miles by 20 miles, about 400 square miles – partnered with the DNR to help rehabilitate the buildings at Mill Lake, an environmental education camp in Chelsea, which had fallen into disrepair.
The group not only gutted and refinished the cabins and dining hall, but “they accomplished in one day what would have taken six weeks for the DNR to complete because of the sheer volume of volunteers they attracted,” said Maia Turek, a recreation specialist with the DNR, in a press release.
Turek nominated the Big 400 for the award.
The four counties that make up the Big 400 include Ingham, Jackson, Livingston and Washtenaw.
Bob Pierce, the executive director of the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce and one of the founders of the Big 400, said the group was “absolutely thrilled” to be honored by the DNR.
“The Big 400 is a very grassroots, all-volunteer organization and this kind of award will certainly help enhance our mission, which is to build an economic model around outdoor recreational tourism and natural resources,” Pierce said in the release.
Partners in Conservation awards are bestowed upon organizations or individuals who have been nominated by DNR staff in recognition of their outstanding contributions to natural resources in Michigan.
Turek said the Big 400’s “forward-thinking” view of natural resources as economic assets to their communities is especially impressive.
To learn more about the Big 400 and the rehabilitation work that was completed at Mill Lake, click here.