Rustic nature park for Coney Island

Work to start next year on only basic fixtures in bid to preserve bird haven
Royston Sim Straits Times 20 Nov 12;

WORK to develop a rustic nature park on Coney Island is slated to start in the latter half of next year, with nature lovers calling for it to be preserved as a haven for migratory birds.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which shares their sentiments, said only basic park furniture and non-concrete footpaths will be installed, along with minimal lighting to avoid disturbing wildlife at night.

NParks director of parks development Yeo Meng Tong said: "We intend the park to be as rustic and natural as possible with only a few built structures."

The tender for the development will be called by the year end and it should be ready by 2014, he added.

Coney Island, also known as Pulau Serangoon, is mostly covered with lush vegetation. The western end is linked by a bridge to Punggol Promenade. A separate bridge and path links the eastern end to Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Drive 6, which is off Lorong Halus.

The island is currently fenced off for redevelopment.

Given its proximity to Punggol, the island's green theme will be mirrored in the upcoming new town. The town - slated to have 96,000 HDB flats and private homes in the next 15 years or so - will have paths lined with greenery and extend north to reach the promenade and Coney Island. The next phase of development for Punggol was unveiled last month.

One such "green finger" will be the 1.5km Old Punggol Road, which will be converted into a heritage trail for pedestrians.

Nature lovers like Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chairman of the Nature Society's conservation committee, do not want homes to be built on Coney island as it is an important stop for birds flying to Singapore from Johor.

Dr Ho said the island will become increasingly important as a "green" stretch, given the "relentless housing development" along the north-eastern sector of Singapore in areas like Pasir Ris.

Coney Island's casuarina trees harbour birds of prey such as the brahminy kite and white-bellied sea eagle, which hunt for food along the coast and in the Johor Strait. "It's important for them to find places where they can rest or perch to devour their food," Dr Ho said. "Being the tallest trees along the coast, the casuarina trees are used by the birds for such purposes."

Migratory birds such as the blue-throated bee-eater and jerdon's baza, a rare migrant, also come from temperate regions in the north during winter to take refuge and hunt for food, he added.

Coney Island is also popular with anglers. An enthusiast in his 50s, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said "quite a few" fishing fans go to the island to fish, particularly on weekends, despite notices that warn against trespassing on state land. "The fish are bigger there," he said.

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