Parks with perks

Admiralty Park, Jurong Lake Park and East Coast Park are being turned into Destination Parks, but will they lose their tranquillity?
Kimberly Spykerman Straits Times 25 Mar 12;

Not just a park, but a park with perks. That is what the National Parks Board (NParks) is proposing for three public parks - Admiralty, East Coast and Jurong Lake - to transform them into 'destination parks'.

Think giant slides and adventure playgrounds, for example.

However, while parkgoers LifeStyle spoke to welcome more amenities and activities, the idea of putting man-made structures amid Mother Nature does not sit well with some at all. They worry that an influx of people going to use the new amenities may end up destroying the tranquillity that draws people to the green space in the first place.

One such nature-lover is fitness enthusiast Irene Tan, in her 30s. She was enjoying some brisk walking and running on Wednesday evening at Jurong Lake Park, with its lush green slopes, leafy trees, light breeze and panoramic water view.

People nearby were lounging on the park benches, just taking in the scene. In fact, it would be a perfect setting for al fresco dining, water playgrounds, a small petting zoo and as an outdoor concert venue, some parkgoers told LifeStyle.

But Ms Tan said this could spell the end of the park as an exercise venue. 'I enjoy the peacefulness of the place, it's very relaxing. But it won't be like this anymore if too many people come here just to dine. There are already many such places in Singapore so I hope this park can be kept for exercise.'

Over at East Coast Park, Mr Alvin Lee, 53, who runs Castle Beach which offers sandcastle-building activities for families, said it can be hard to enjoy the park when it is teeming with people and activity.

'Especially for older people who just want to slow down and relax, there's no space to do that here. There's so much happening here already,' he added.

Others said East Coast Park has become so popular that the priority should be to manage the crowd and traffic situation better, rather than add more facilities.

'There are more people on weekends so you need some patience to wait for carpark space. The footpaths are also quite crowded,' said Ms Gladys Chua, 50, who works at the People's Association and takes her five-year-old jack russell terrier for weekend walks there.

NParks has invited the public to give feedback on what they want to see in these three parks, which it says it chose based on geographical location and unique characteristics.

Experts told LifeStyle that while rejuvenating these parks would be welcomed by Singaporeans, it was important to keep new structures as organic as possible, to retain the natural aspect of the park.

Their tips: Understand each site's strong points and safeguard those factors when designing the parks.

For example, rock-climbing and abseiling walls could be created out of the naturally hilly terrain of Admiralty Park, said Ms Toh Yah Li, an environment design lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic.

Or how about an adventure trail that cuts through the hills and allows visitors to 'burrow' through, suggested landscape architect Mason Tan, who runs his own firm Mace Studio.

To ease the overcrowding at East Coast Park, more space can be created by building paths that lead to the beach or forested areas, rather than the linear path, said Mr Idris Bidin, senior lecturer for the Diploma in Landscape Architecture course at Singapore Polytechnic.

'These meandering paths give people more options for walking routes. It also adds to the sensory experience and helps control the crowd,' he added.

Dr Tan Puay Yok from the National University of Singapore's department of architecture said plans for East Coast Park could be channelled to other parks in the east, such as Bedok Reservoir Park, since East Coast Park is already a 'destination park' of sorts. 'I'm sure every Singapore kid has been there at least once to cycle or for a barbecue,' he said with a chuckle.

He added that while man-made structures can attract visitors, it is important to help people establish historical, cultural and emotional links with the landscape, which will keep them coming back. He suggested having interactive signs and mobile apps at the parks to give interesting historical nuggets to visitors.

'Going to a park is not just about having fun, it's good to understand the heritage of the site,' he said.

But for parkgoer Rahim Yatin, a 44-year-old engineer, amenities such as cafes and bicycle kiosks are the first step in ensuring that people want to make the trip to the park in the first place.

'If there are no basic facilities, people may not bother to come just for the scenery,' he said.

EAST COAST PARK (right and below right)

What it could have:

More child-friendly spaces such as playgrounds attached to eating areas where parents can watch their kids

Separate areas that act as 'sanctuaries' for older residents who want to be away from the noise and bustle of park activity

Wider walking spaces and greater accessibility by public transport, which would help ease the carpark crunch on weekends


What it could have:

Food and beverage outlets

A skate park because of the hilly terrain

Rockclimbing and abseiling walls

Adventure trail with tunnels for people to 'burrow' through the hills

Proper running tracks and cycling facilities


What it could have:

A mini petting-zoo with animals such as rabbits or ducks

A dog run

Al fresco dining outlets

A stage for outdoor performances

Water-themed playgrounds


NParks will go on a massive public engagement drive in the next six months to decide on what the three parks will become. This will include roadshows and focus-group sessions.

Members of the public can share their views at

They can also contribute their ideas at any of NParks roadshows listed here:

Nex: March 24 to 25, 11am to 7pm

HDB Hub: April 14 to 15, 11am to 7pm

Downtown East: April 21 to 22, 11am to 7pm

Jurong Point: April 28 to 29, 11am to 7pm

HortPark: May 1 to June 30, 11am to 7pm