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Friday, June 06, 2014

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

The biggest news this week for runners; oh okay, for trail runners at least; this week is probably not the Sundown Marathon but the forthcoming closure of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. 

Like most of the trail running friends, I too will miss the place not that I like it very much. But for trail runners and mountain climbers, this is the only place where one can get a decent workout while training for overseas trail races like the multiple trail races in Hongkong, Sabah, Vietnam and other countries nearby. For climbers, this is the only place to train in Singapore, inadequate as it may be at 163 metres high. Most of us who trains there are attracted to the 2 long flights of rickety staircases from Dairy Farm to the Summit.

So everybody training plans will be rudely shattered. There is absolutely no other place in the whole of Singapore that is similar in nature or has the ascent, limited as Bukit Timah Hill is. The next highest peak in Singapore is the 105 metres high Mt Faber and there are no steps like what Bukit Timah has. Which bring me to my wish list and what I hope to see/not to see from the repair/upgrading of the place.

1. No concrete steps. The uneven crooked steps are the main draw of the place for all those training at the place. This is the closest we can get to climbing and is similar to the steps in the Hong Kong trails. What I hope is that Nparks do not replace them with concrete evenly spaced steps like those at Mt Faber. Sure, concrete steps will be easier to walk for the multitudes of park visitors but it will kill the whole ruggedness of the place. So my hope is that these steps will be repaired where necessary but will remain. 

2. Minimum boardwalk. I know boardwalk protect the creatures and the on the ground but what we want is a rugged trail, soil mud and dirt. Install boardwalk only at the most vulnerable areas. Keep the place as natural as possible. If there is really a need to keep people off the side of the trail, perhaps having railings made of natural recycled wood and plants along the side of the trail might do the trick of preventing users from encroaching into the forest.

3. A proper toilet and a small cafe. Something like the Amenities Centre at MacRitchie Reservoir. Toilet should be big enough to accommodate the increased number of visitors that is expected to throng the place after the re-opening. It should also come with shower facilities for visitor to bath and change after trekking. A small cafe will be great for visitors to rest, have a drink and some refreshment. Oh a water cooler at the summit might be nice too.

4. Better accessibility. Currently there is no public transport to the place. Perhaps introduce a paid shuttle bus service from either Clementi or Bukit Batok MRT station on weekends. That will hopefully reduce the number of people who drives there and clogging up the roads and polluting the air.

5. Not a sanitized park. Last but not least, not another Bishan Park, Sengkang Riverside Park or Admiralty Park where everything is nicely cultivated and demarcated. No nice paved walkways, no granite chip trails and no cement stairs what is slowly happening at MacRitchie Reservoir Park. Minimum changes from current  and keep the place as natural as possible. Retain its ruggedness. After all that is what endeared most people to Bukit Timah Hill.

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