SINGAPORE: Sembawang Hot Spring, the only hot spring on mainland Singapore, will be developed into a community park 10 times its current size.
The National Parks Board (NParks) said it would keep the rustic, kampung-like feel of the hot spring while turning the 0.1 hectare space, now tucked about 100m off Gambas Avenue, into a 1.1 hectare park.
NParks unveiled these plans at a public exhibition on Saturday (Nov 25). Among planned additions are a cascading pool cum foot bath, sheltered seating areas as well as a café and a floral walk.
Edible plants such as ginger, rambutan and chiku will be planted along the floral walkway to evoke memories of a bygone era in Singapore and also to preserve the hot spring’s untouched feel.
“Many of the residents from Sembawang and Yishun used to live in kampungs around here. They know how it was like back then and they also reminisce about the past," said Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who visited the exhibition on Saturday.
"They know that Singapore, between highly developed buildings and city centres versus a kampong atmosphere, can co-exist. And I think this is a fine place to demonstrate that."
Work on the park will begin in early 2018 and are expected to be completed by 2019.
Among the first to scribble a light-hearted suggestion was Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan.
“Let the chickens in!” he wrote on a Post-It note, before sticking it onto a board set up to collect public feedback.
Besides Mr Ong, Mr Khaw was accompanied by Members of Parliament from Nee Soon and Sembawang GRCs, including Mr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Dr Lee Bee Wah, Mr Amrin Amin and Mr Vikram Nair.
They planted the first trees along the walkway, toured the exhibition and chatted to regular users of the hot spring. They even sampled soft-boiled eggs cooked by the spring’s steaming water and soaked their feet in pails of warm spring water, much to the delight of residents.
“We are a concrete jungle, with lots of tall buildings, highly developed places and intensified plot ratios," said Mr Ong.
"So to find a jewel like this in Singapore is really rare, and we’re quite determined to keep this rustic vibe with the kampung spirit going."
ONCE A THERMAL BATHHOUSE FOR JAPANESE SOLDIERS
The Sembawang Hot Spring was discovered in 1908 on the grounds owned by a Chinese merchant, Seah Eng Keong. Since then, the land has changed hands a few times.
It was once a thermal bathhouse for Japanese soldiers, after their occupation of Singapore during World War II. Later in the 1960s, local media reported suggestions were made to develop the area into a tourist spa resort, restaurant, miniature golf course or nature reserve - but none came to fruition.
These ideas were put forth to local food and beverage conglomerate Fraser and Neave (F&N), who had acquired the land in 1921 after buying over an on-site spring water bottling plant established by the grounds’ original owner, Seah Eng Keong.
According to a signboard at the entrance of the spring, it was not the Chinese merchant who first discovered the spring in 1908, but a British soldier named William Arthur Bates Goodall.
The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) acquired the land in 1985, and in 2002 built much of the present infrastructure, including the entrance gate, perimeter fence, cemented walkway, concrete floor and standpipes.
MINDEF will return the land to the state, which will hand the plot to NParks ahead of works slated to begin next year.
The public exhibition at the hot springs will be held until Dec 3, and members of the public are invited to pen their thoughts on development plans.
The public can also view these plans and share their ideas until Dec 10 at https://www.nparks.gov.sg/contribute/sembawanghotspringpark.