Bukit Timah Nature Reserve reopens after two years of restoration works

Today Online 22 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE — Bukit Timah Nature Reserve reopened on Saturday (Oct 22) with new enhancements for public safety and conservation efforts, following two years of restoration works.

The Reserve, which houses Singapore’s tallest hill at 163m, began restoration works in September 2014. Among the improvements include railings along trails to reduce footpaths into the surrounding forest, new boardwalks and a slip-resistant trail, as well as an upgraded visitor centre.

The National Parks Board (NParks) added that the two-year closure allowed authorities to conduct a biodiversity survey to help provide better understanding of the conservation status and distribution of plants and animals.

Prior to its closure, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve received more than 400,000 visitors yearly. The human traffic had resulted in soil compaction, erosion and gully formation, giving rise to poor forest regeneration and unpleasant hiking experience for visitors, NParks said.

As such slope stabilisation was one of the key measures taken by NParks in the restoration work. Sections of three slopes along the Main Road trail have now been repaired to ensure slope stability and public safety; and to minimise the potential of slope failure, a two-pronged approach was adopted – micro piles were used to stabilise the slopes, while plants were grown on the slopes for soil retention.

Except for the slope stabilisation work, no machinery was used on site for the trail repair, according to NParks. The fabrication of the boardwalk and steps were also done off-site and hand-carried into the reserve, and works were carried out only in the day to avoid disturbing the animals.

The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore’s second ASEAN Heritage Park, is home to around 40 per cent of the nation’s native species. It occupies 163 hectares of Singapore’s land area.


Bukit Timah Nature Reserve reopens after 2 years of restoration work
Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 22 Oct 16;

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."

- CNA/rw

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Reopens after Completion of Restoration Works
NParks Media Release 22 Oct 2016;

Singapore, 22 October 2016 — The National Parks Board (NParks) today reopened the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve following the completion of restoration works and sensitive enhancements that spanned two years. The two-year closure has allowed NParks to repair and enhance the slopes and trails for public safety, restore the forest habitat to safeguard one of the last vestiges of Singapore’s primary tropical rainforests in the heart of the islands, and conduct a two-year biodiversity survey to help provide better understanding of the conservation status and distribution of plants and animals.

Visitors can now explore the Reserve using restored trails and boardwalks, and at the upgraded Visitor Centre, learn about Singapore’s natural heritage and ongoing biodiversity conservation efforts. Minister for National Development and second Minister for Finance, Lawrence Wong, together with Advisers of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, planted two Endocomia canarioides trees to mark the occasion.

Restoration works to conserve the forests in the Reserve

Restoration works on the Reserve began in September 2014 and concluded in October 2016. During this time, slope stabilisation works were carried out as a pre-emptive measure to ensure public safety. NParks also restored trails and added intermediate steps to more challenging routes, making hiking more accessible to the elderly and young. Following the completion of slope stabilisation and trail repair works at Summit Path, the Main Road leading to the Summit was open on weekends since April 2015. The popular Dairy Farm Loop was also subsequently reopened on weekends starting in August 2016.

In addition, NParks carried out sensitive enhancements to protect the Reserve’s biodiversity, such as enrichment planting to enhance the forest habitat, as well as the installation of a raised boardwalk at several sections to minimise the impact of trampling on leaf litter organisms and soil compaction on tree roots. Railings have been installed beside the trails to encourage visitors to keep to designated trails, which would reduce footpaths widening into the surrounding forest.

A variety of sustainable features were installed at the upgraded Visitor Centre, including the provision of skylight panels at the exhibition gallery to reduce the need for electrical lighting, and the repurposing of windows into terraces for planter beds. More details on these features can be found in Media Factsheet A.

Upgraded amenities for enhanced visitor experience

The exhibition gallery at the upgraded Visitor Centre will educate visitors on the special importance of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and ongoing conservation efforts, as well as Singapore’s native biodiversity. Building on previous content about the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves, the exhibition’s themes have been expanded to encompass forest ecology, the changing landscape of the Reserve over the years with the addition of buffer areas, as well as the Reserve’s biodiversity, interpreted through life-sized animal models and interactive stations. The permanent exhibition has been designed to engage visitors’ senses with tactile components, such as seeds collected from plants locally found only in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The upgraded amenities around the Visitor Centre also include a toilet block with a wash bay, drinking fountain and benches for rest.

Interim findings from comprehensive survey of Reserve

While restoration works were ongoing, a comprehensive survey for the reserve, supported by HSBC through the Garden City Fund, was initiated in early 2015. The survey will conclude in 2017.

Interim findings from the survey have revealed many rediscoveries and new records in the Reserve, such as the Soejatmia ridleyi, the only clambering bamboo native to Singapore, the Scindapsus lucens, a climber which is a new record in Singapore’s native plant list, as well as a new site locality for the endemic Singapore Freshwater Crab (Johora singaporensis). In addition, researchers have found more than five potentially new species of spiders from the Paculla and the Aetius genus, which are currently in the process of being described. Other key findings include the Malayan Porcupine (Hystrix brachyura), which was recorded at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve for the first time during the survey, and the Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang), which was not recorded in previous surveys. More details of these findings are in Media Factsheet B.

This survey involved NParks staff, science academics and individuals with domain knowledge of specific taxonomic groups. Information gathered from this latest survey will help NParks to continue to sensitively manage the Reserve.

Prior to the recent survey, a team of international researchers has been monitoring a 2-hectare survey plot within the forest since 1993. The data collected contributes to global research on forest dynamics and ecology.

The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore’s second ASEAN Heritage Park, is home to around 40% of our native species even though it occupies only 163 hectares of Singapore’s land area.

Friends of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

In addition to management strategies grounded in scientific research, the active participation of all stakeholders and the community as co-owners and stewards is an imperative for the conservation of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

NParks today announced that it intends to form a “Friends of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve” community. The “Friends of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve” group will include members from the nature community, recreational users, schools and nearby residents. The objective is to ensure that education, research and recreation will be sensitive to the conservation of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. One example of ownership and stewardship is the Bukit Timah Wildlife Network. Spearheaded by Bukit Timah Community Club (CC) Youth Executive Committee (YEC), and comprising residents, volunteers, schools, government agencies and civic organisations, this group has been raising visitors’ awareness of the importance of reducing human-monkey interactions by not interfering in the animals’ natural diet, and eliciting visitors’ commitment to refrain from feeding the wildlife or leave litter behind. More details on the “Friends of the Parks” scheme can be found in Media Factsheet C.



Factsheet A - Restoration works and sensitive enhancements at Bukit Timah Natural Reserve

Factsheet B - Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Survey Interim Update

Factsheet C - Friends of the Parks

Factsheet D - Tree planted by Minister


MEDIA FACTSHEET C

Friends of the Parks Scheme

The Friends of the Parks scheme is a ground-led initiative to promote stewardship and responsible use of our Parks. The scheme is modelled after the successful Friends of Ubin Network (FUN) and was conceived during the SGFuture conversations held at the Future of Us Exhibition in Jan 2016, where there were calls by the participants for greater community ownership and stewardship of our parks.

The Friends of the Parks Scheme consists of localised communities representing active stakeholders and volunteers in our parks. Each community is headed by a committee to represent the interests of the various stakeholder groups within the park’s ecosystem. Through the formation of the Friends of the Parks community, members will be able to play a more active role in promoting active and responsible uses of our Parks through ground-led programmes and initiatives.

Each Friends of the Parks scheme is headed by a committee consisting of up to 10 members representing the different user groups within the Parks. Each term of membership will be for two years. Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee has taken on the role of advisor to the Friends of the Parks Scheme.

In addition to existing NParks volunteers, stakeholders such as hikers, bikers, exercise groups, tenants, nature photographers, researchers and regular users of the park will be invited to join the Friends of the Parks community. By involving stakeholders, Friends of the Parks will better represent the composition of the park user community.

Examples of things that can be initiated:

Ideas for projects relating to conservation, horticulture, events and amenities within the Parks. For example, educational and awareness campaigns could be organised to promote responsible behaviour and etiquette within the Parks. Interest groups such as photography, hiking or community gardening could also be formed. Friends could also organise and participate in activities to maintain the cleanliness of parks and the upkeep of their amenities.

Friends of Parks Scheme

Friends of Chestnut Nature Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Park Connector Network and Pulau Ubin were launched on 2 April 2016. The Friends of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve scheme was launched on 22 October 2016. The chairpersons were chosen based on their dedication and passion in championing ground-up initiatives related to nature and greenery

Community Chairperson

Friends of Chestnut Nature Park: N Sivasothi, Senior Lecturer, National University of Singapore
Friends of Park Connector Network: Han Jok Kwang, Chief Information Officer, Venture Corporate Ltd
Friends of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve: Tham Pui San, NParks volunteer
Friends of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: (More details will be announced later)


For Pulau Ubin, the existing Friends of Ubin Network comes under the Friends
of the Parks scheme but will remain as it is without change to its committee
structure. Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee will continue to host this
group.

Members of the public who are keen to find out more or join the Friends of the
Parks scheme can sign up as a volunteer to the respective parks at
https://www.nparks.gov.sg/contribute/volunteer

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