SINGAPORE: The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve reopened on Saturday (Oct 22) after two years of restoration works and enhancements.
The two-year closure allowed the National Parks Board (NParks) to repair and enhance the slopes and trails to make it safer for the public. Increased usage over the years of the popular nature reserve had caused the trails to widen and small landslides also occurred in some areas.
And so, slope stabilisation works were carried out and trails were restored - with intermediate steps added to the more challenging routes, to make hiking more accessible.
During this period, sensitive enhancements were also carried out to protect the nature reserve's biodiversity.
These measures include installing a raised boardwalk at several sections to minimise the impact of trampling, and the installation of railings to encourage visitors to keep to the designated trails - reducing footprint into the surrounding forest.
While restoration work was ongoing, a comprehensive survey for the reserve was initiated in early 2015. Due to conclude in 2017, it has already yielded some interesting findings.
For example, researchers recorded the first sighting of the Malayan porcupine and slow loris at the reserve.
NParks also said it intends form a "Friends of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve" community, which comprises the nature community, residents, and recreational users.
The group will play a part in ensuring education, research and recreation will be sensitive to the conservation of the nature reserve.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who reopened the reserve, encouraged Singaporeans to come and see what it had to offer, while recognising the responsibilities they have.
"We are not just co-owners, but also custodians and stewards ... we protect it, we preserve it, and make sure we have this slice of nature for future generations to enjoy," he said.
VISITORS GIVE THUMBS UP
Visitors to the nature reserve said the new additions make the park more user-friendly. "You look at all the footpaths - in particular those off the beaten track, they're now much more aligned, and it's much easier to walk, especially for the elderly and kids," said a member of the public. "And also it looks much more well-kept."
Another visitor added: "The changes suit people who don't want it to be so muddy, and want it to be more comfortable and easy for walking. I think it's good."
According to NParks' Group Director (Conservation) Wong Tuan Wah, the enhancements to the park were undertaken with full sensitivity to the environment.
"In the process of doing this, we were very mindful that we have to be very sensitive to ensure that whatever work we do here, we don't create any more impact to the environment or forest itself," he said.
"So in this respect, a lot of the work done here, are done manually. A lot of walking trails do not allow for heavy machinery to come in, so a lot of the materials had to be pre-fabricated on-site and then brought in, and the trails are restored using manual labour."
Mr Wong also added that the presence of the Malayan porcupine and slow loris is a good indicator of the forest's health.
"It actually indicates that the forest is still in very good condition, and that many of these species are still around here," he said. "For example, some species we thought were extinct - by definition, have not been seen for more than 50 years - we rediscovered them in this survey."