Thinking Out Loud: Article by Ricky Nations

Mississippi Artist Trying to Save Swamp
What kind of person falls in love with a swamp?

Robin Whitfield, that’s who.

-article written by Ricky Nations, copied from

Robin Whitfield inside the Chakchiuma Swamp
I have known Robin Whitfield since 1989. She was an early teenager but seemed much older than her actual age. She seemed mysterious and grown up to me. A teen-aged girl that wore peasant skirts and vintage clothing before vintage clothing was cool. Later, Robin would go to Delta State University and graduate with an Art degree.

Immediately after college, work placed Whitfield in Grenada, MS and before long the Clinton, MS native began to put down roots and call Grenada home. She opened an art studio in downtown Grenada and began to discover her surroundings even more. In doing so, she discovered the Chakchiuma Swamp. This swamp located near downtown Grenada was being abused by the general public and instead of being appreciated, many simply used it as a dumping ground and a place for high school students to drink beer leaving the empties behind. Robin helped to call attention to this problem and the need of preserving the swamp. In doing so, she helped to rescue and rehabilitate the swamp.

Her involvement and concern for the Chakchiuma Swamp helped to create interest within the school district and with civic groups around town. Throughout the year, there are educational programs, cleanup and conservation efforts, kayaking, fishing and bird watching The swamp, now known as the Chakchiuma Swamp Natural Area is touted as: A community Outdoor Recreation & Wildlife Conservation Area in downtown Grenada.

While all of this seems to be a nice story, the problem is this; Grenada, as is the case with many small cities throughout the U.S. finds themselves short of money. The city is considering a selective cutting of the timber within the swamp which would bring in some of the dollars needed by the city.

Earlier this year, Robin with support from the local Garden Club and other organizations persuaded the city to look elsewhere for money and to save the swamp. Since that time, a new City Manager has been hired and the destruction of the swamp is back on the table. A one-time infusion of money (approximately $200,000) could leave behind a swamp that most likely will be destroyed for decades. While I am not a “tree hugger”, this truly seems a shame and is an example of where our smaller rural cities are today, choosing between the long-term good of the community and short term fixes.

This is a story of a special place that has the potential of being endangered and of an artist who loves that place and the City of Grenada, a city that has to make hard decisions on how to solve their economic problems. Whitfield uses much of what she finds within the swamp for her paintings, not only the subject matter but the soil, leaves and bark wind up on her canvas. Whitfield regards her work as visual poetry in the language of color and shape.

In dealing with the city of Grenada, Whitfield has asked the city if she could raise the money from a large number of people offering a “buy a tree” program letting the swamp stay as it is. The city is agreeable to this program but is asking for the money by mid-March 2017. The choice for the city is to collect $200,000 from Whitfield who will keep the swamp in place or from the timber harvester who will most likely destroy the swamp.

Robin Whitfield needs your help.

A gofundme page was started: to help Whitfield with the purchase of trees within the swamp to help hold off the City of Grenada. I hope that you will consider donating and that you will help to spread this blog.

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