Sembawang Hot Spring area to become a park

Linette Lai, Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Feb 17;

There were mixed reactions from visitors to Sembawang Hot Spring when told that the area will be turned into a park as soon as next year.

Some people who have been visiting it for years were cold to the prospect and expressed dismay, while others were warm to the idea of redeveloping the area, which sits in a military camp.

Earlier this month, the National Parks Board (NParks) said on government procurement website GeBiz that it was looking for "multi-disciplinary consultancy services" for the development of a park, which includes the hot spring, along Gambas Avenue.

The new park will occupy around 1ha, Ms Kartini Omar, group director of parks development and Jurong Lake Gardens at NParks, told The Straits Times. "Development of the park will start by end-2017, and is expected to be completed by end-2018."

Apart from design and implementation, the consulting team "will also be required to provide a comprehensive report on the hydrogeological study of the site", she said.

Retired contractor Lim Yok Toh, 76, was one of those who prefer it as it is - tranquil, quiet, rustic and surrounded by nature.

Mr Lim, who visits about once a week, said: "Once you build a park, people will come and bring their children along and then it will be noisy. I prefer it like this - where you can see the trees and hear the birds chirping."

But people like Mr Gui Kim Toon, 74, who see the benefits of development, disagree.

"It would be nice if we had some shelter to protect us from the sun and rain," said Mr Gui, who visits it two to three times a week. "It can also get very messy now - sometimes people wash their clothes here and hang them up to dry."

Regular visitors even padlock their buckets - or in one case, a metal bathtub - to the chain link fence enclosing the spring.

Ms Lee Bee Wah, who is MP for the area, said that the comments she has heard so far are positive.

"Of course, there are people who want to keep the area as it is. I think we can strike a balance between the two - build facilities that help people enjoy the hot springs, like toilets and water basins."

In April last year, Mr Ong Ye Kung - who was then Senior Minister of State for Defence - said that the Defence Ministry will return the land that the hot spring is on to the state.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee has saidthat the area must retain its rustic character if it is developed.

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