GRENADA, Miss. (WTVA) - Right outside of Grenada's downtown is a 300-acre wetland that Robin Whitfield saved from being logged.
“When I came downtown and I began to walk around, I discovered that there was a big wetland just north of our downtown," she said. "And it was filled with amazing trees and in my mind, just nature!”
Whitfield is a Mississippi native, but she said her hometown of Clinton is more of an urban area. She went to college in the Mississippi Delta and which is an area made up of farmland. This discovery was something she had never seen before.
“I would walk here every day," she said. "For me, it was just like entering a magic world. I would see, in a sense, just a curtain of green.”
As an artist, this new atmosphere captivated her creative juices and became her natural studio. What the area looks like today, does not look like what it did just a few years ago.
“In the meantime, I was also telling enough people that they wanted to come and help me pick up the trash that was being dumped here and other things," Whitfield said. "I realized that the city-owned the property.”
That means 300 acres belonged to Grenada. Whitfield wanted it to become more than it was. City leaders allowed her and others to form a friends group.
“We ended up naming this area which did not have a name Chakchiuma Swamp," she said. "Chakchiuma is after the native people who lived here. It means ‘Red Crawfish People’. We wanted to honor their presence here.”
Whitfield and her friends enjoyed the swamp. They made trails, hosted events and cleaned it up, but that all changed in 2016.
“I showed up with my painting kit, pulled up and saw pink tape over the boundary of all the forest out here.”
She said she could not believe that there was a possibility her sanctuary could be town down.
“Sure enough after I went down to our City Hall and talked to them, they had decided to cut down all of their property not just this property," Whitfield said. "[It was] for much-needed funding, and I knew we need funding for our city.”
Whitfield would not let that happen without a fight. City leaders allowed her to speak to them during public hearings and asked if she proposed a solution.
“I called everyone there was to call from the Nature Conservancy to the Army Corp of Engineers to of course, our State Fish and Wildlife...anyone I thought that might could advise or help.”
She finally came up with a solution and it is one that allows folks to connect with the swamp.
“[I thought], 'Gosh, I think I can find people to adopt trees for their timber value and leave them standing,” she said. However, she said it was not as easy as it sounds.
“The city did reject the timber that came in," Whitfield said. "Largely, because they weren’t as much as the city was wanting, but they knew there was another idea in the works too.”
There were other bumps in the road, but Whitfield and the board that formed did not give up. Today, Chakchiuma Swamp remains in what is now Lee Tartt Nature Preserve. A found that helped save the wetland and the community agreed to name it after a Grenada native and agent with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics who died in the line of duty.
The large wetland and its trails provide a place for residents in Grenada or tourists to get outside.
“This is here open every day of the from dawn until dusk and you can sit here quietly and see amazing things.”
The Lee Tartt Nature Preserve hosts several events. That includes a Halloween event called Dragon and Spirits of Lee Tartt Nature Preserve on October 29th and 30th.