By ASHLEY SPRAGUE
There are so many beautiful spaces in this world that are being destroyed by urbanization; so many places that should be preserved and not taken for granted. We have one of these beautiful natural areas in Waterloo Region. Just southeast of Kitchener’s Fairview Park Mall, tucked away between a subdivision and a movie theatre, is an incredible 200-acre piece of land called Hidden Valley.
This area is home to over 120 acres of mature forest, a huge wetland and several special species including what is quite possibly the largest group of Jefferson salamanders in southern Ontario.
It is also the last undeveloped natural area in the centre core.
In 1981 there was a plan to build a road through the centre of Hidden Valley, which would ruin the natural state of the land. Daphne Nicholls, a Kitchener resident, would not let that happen. In 2003, after an announcement was made that Waterloo Region would proceed with the road, Nicholls, along with her husband Gord, created an organization called Friends of Hidden Valley, which, to this day, is still fighting against the urbanization of the area.
Nicholls was an environmentalist, an artist and someone who cared deeply about the preservation of Hidden Valley.
In 2006 she came up with the idea to have an art show showcasing the beauty of Hidden Valley. The show was a success, and many people began inquiring about the nature area. Hidden Valley was the talk of the town for several years after that, but dropped off the radar after Nicholls was diagnosed with cancer. She and her husband put their focus on her health, so not much was heard about Hidden Valley for many years. However, last year, despite being extremely ill, Nicholls proposed holding another art exhibition, leaving the show in the works when she died in August 2016. Her husband and good friends decided to continue with her plan.
The show is currently on display at the Homer Watson House and Gallery, 1754 Old Mill Rd. in Kitchener, and will run until Oct. 22. Eighty-one artists have submitted their works showcasing the natural beauty of Hidden Valley. Many of them are paintings but there are also some sculptures and more natural pieces made of leaves and bark
“There are some fantastic submissions, they are beautiful,” said Anne Morgan, a longtime friend of Nicholls. “They show Hidden Valley in all the seasons and in all people’s eyes when they walk through it. It is doing a great job of bringing attention to the general public about Hidden Valley, it is what she would have wanted.”
Nicholls and her friends and family fought for over 12 years to have Hidden Valley preserved and her friends and husband said they will not stop until it is.
“I think it’s fair to say that Hidden Valley is a very special, beautiful piece of property that, if preserved, would provide the future citizens of Waterloo Region, especially those living on the new LRT line, with a place for repose and restoration,” said Gord Nicholls.
“Preserving natural land is critical. We’ve destroyed so much natural habitat it’s horrible,” said Morgan.
In respect to the art show, there will be a wall dedicated to Daphne Nicholls and Homer Watson, a Canadian landscape painter who died in 1936, with both of their art pieces showcasing Hidden Valley.
This exhibition is an excellent way to honour Nicholls, along with a piece of trail along the Bruce Peninsula that is dedicated to her.