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Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to close for restoration works

Public access to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve will be limited for two years while it undergoes restoration works. This is the first time it will be closed to the public.

SINGAPORE: The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve will be closed to the public for at least six months from September 15 while it undergoes restoration works, the National Parks Board (NParks) said on Monday (June 2). This is the first time the reserve will be closed to the public.

After the six-month period, there will be limited access to the nature reserve for another 18 months, while the Main Road trail leading to the summit will be reopened only on weekends.

NEED FOR RESTORATION
NParks said it has found damage to the forests and an erosion of the slopes and trails over the years. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was visited by 400,000 people last year - five times more than 20 years ago.  

Said Dr Leong Chee Chiew, NParks' Commissioner of Parks and Recreation: "In recent years, we have also found that the constant trampling of trails has caused quite drastic erosion along our trees. And when this happens then trails become wider; the roots of trees become exposed. It weakens the trees and so we have seen some tree falls which is not good in a natural forest like this. But on top of that, we are also concerned that if we do not repair these trails, then when visitors walk they may trip and fall".

Nature Reserves Scientific Advisory Committee Chairman Joseph Koh said the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is particularly vulnerable because it is small and almost isolated, and may not have the resilience of a large forest to recover itself from the stress of excessive physical degradation. 

RAILINGS, RAISED BOARDWALK IN THE WORKS
During the two-year period, it will be repairing over half, or more than 4.55 kilometres, of the reserve's trails, as well as stabilising slopes and restoring its flora and fauna. A 1.3km-long raised boardwalk will also be built, as well as railings installed along critical areas of trails to ensure visitors do not stray off the trails.

"A raised boardwalk simply allows you to walk on an elevated platform without actually impacting on the forest floor. The insects and the animals can actually coexist quite happily underneath those raised trails," said Dr Leong.

"NO IMMEDIATE DANGER": NPARKS 
While NParks assures that there is no immediate danger currently, restorations have to be done to prevent further degradation or major landslides.

NParks will also be upgrading the reserve's visitor centre, which is more than 20 years old, and adding a new toilet block to house additional washroom facilities. 

The Nature Reserves Scientific Advisory Committee is assured NParks will take the right steps to preserve the original character of the reserve.

"There was no need for us to tell NParks, you know, that 'You've got to be careful, bulldozers cannot go in' and so on. There can be a lot of collateral damage you know, if you find the cheapest way to do it, and the quickest way to do it. There was no need for the scientists to give NParks this lecture. They were actually (just) as concerned with protecting and being sensitive to the habitat," said Mr Koh.

Indeed, NParks can draw on its experience building the TreeTop Walk in MacRitchie Reservoir nearly 10 years ago.

"When we built the MacRitchie TreeTop Walk, we took great pains to ensure that we did not damage the forest in the process. So, the workers were instructed to be very careful. Many things were actually carried in rather than brought in with heavy machinery. We will exercise the same care and employ the same methods when we repair the trails," Dr Leong promised. 

Those who want to explore alternative nature areas can consider the nearby Zhenghua Nature Park, Dairy Farm Nature Park, Bukit Batok Nature Park and Bukit Batok Town Park, NParks said.

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