Hidden Valley Lakes Corporation is a camping and RV resort on 1,100 wooden acres in central Tennessee. The corporation is about 20 miles from Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and 10 miles from Grinders Switch (Minnie Pearl’s Home Town), and 50 miles away from Nashville. The community has approximately 300 homes and offers campers several amenities, including pavilions, a pool, three heated bathhouses, a park, and a playground.

In September 2016, Communities Unlimited (CU) started working with the community to assist them with their water/sewer system. . There began to be an influx of new residents, and many homes did not have running water. The families are getting water from the nearby bathhouses. The community is near some unincorporated communities but not near enough to share their water/sewer systems. The location, terrain, and distance have been an issue. No surrounding water system wants to assist the corporation.

A well at Hidden Valley Lakes
One of the wells at Hidden Valley Lakes

CU’s Tennessee State Coordinator, Annie Chiodo, met with the board and started making phone calls to bring assistance to Hidden Valley Lakes. Annie researched to locate all the properties’ wells and determine what belonged to Hidden Valley. She worked with the community to match street names to the well logs. In 2017, Annie discussed changes with the board they would need to make in the next several years, including applying to the Community Engineer Corporation (CEC).

The board applied in September 2018, and approval came in November 2018. CU’s Environmental Team worked hard for the next several years. In late 2019, Annie took the CEC on a community tour and let them meet some of the residents of Hidden Valley. The CEC sent Annie a preliminary work plan to begin moving the road to start the new water/sewer system.

The next few months hit a snag when COVID-19 started and made travel to the area difficult. During this time, the board was also going through elections.

Annie started meeting with the board over phone calls and Zoom meetings. Eventually, on June 16, 2020, Annie had a Zoom meeting with the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) to discuss the issue of getting Hidden Valley as a utility.

CEC employees talk with Hidden Valley residents on a walk-through to learn about their water struggles
Annie Chiodo shares one of the struggles the community of Hidden Valley Lakes faced in their search for water

In August 2020, Annie went out to the community, looked at the wells, and explained that the water was fine; however, the wells were the problem. As mentioned above, many residents were hauling water from the bathhouses to their homes, and some had to pay someone to move the water. To top it all off, people were not using safety precautions. Other residents were using the facilities in the bathhouses for showering and cleaning.

In September, elections were over, and the board received new members, so the new members would need to start training. These new board members have an attitude that will start getting things done. Annie continued working with the board and the community over the next few months. She revisited Hidden Valley in May of 2021 and handed out materials on private wells and septic safety to residents.

Annie Chiodo talking to Hidden Valley Lakes Board Members
CU Tennessee State Coordinator Annie Chiodo talks with Hidden Valley Lakes Board Members

January 2022 started with the CEC working on the preliminary report and Annie meeting with Ray Vanisacker, Vice President of Hidden Valley, to develop plans for the next few months. Drilling started in August of 2022. Although many still need to be completed, four wells are ready, and some families finally get water for their homes.

Community members watched and clapped from their porches as they started witnessing the drilling in their area.

Annie has witnessed many things during this project’s journey; there were times when it seemed like a struggle, and there did not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The community has had its share of fires and loss of homes due to the lack of a water system. However, Annie stayed focused. It has been over ten years in the making and is far from finalization, but seeing the smiles on the residents’ faces as they finally see some progress and change in the community they call home makes it come full circle.

Annie Chiodo speaking to the Hidden Valley Lakes Community
Annie Chiodo speaking to the Hidden Valley Lakes Community
Annie Chiodo talks about what the reaction in Hidden Valley Lakes was like when the drilling finally started

“Seeing tents on the side of the road and witnessing physically and mentally disabled individuals, you just want to do the best you can to assist them,” Annie said.

CU will continue working with the Hidden Valley Lake Corporation until all the wells are completed and the area has safe water for everyone.

Drilling at Hidden Valley Lakes Corporation
Drilling has finally started at Hidden Valley Lakes Corporation