SINGAPORE - After being closed for two years of restoration works, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was fully reopened to the public on Saturday (Oct 22).
Following its complete closure in September 2014, the reserve was partially reopened to visitors on weekends earlier this year in April. With Saturday's full reopening, nature lovers can now visit all the reserve's hiking trails seven days a week.
The reserve was opened by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong together with grassroots advisers for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
New features that both protect the natural habitat and enhance visitors' experience include boardwalks over swampy areas, rope handrails along some stretches of the trails, and a non-slip trail surface made of a porous mixture of soil and a synthetic polymer that allows rainwater to reach roots underneath.
Weak slopes have also been reinforced using various methods, including micropiles driven into the soil and biodegradable geotextile netting covering the slope that allows plants to grow through.
Where possible, slopes have been allowed to recover naturally through the accumulation of leaf litter and natural regrowth, while it is helped along in other places by planting saplings of native species salvaged from other parts of the reserve.
First established as a nature reserve in 1883, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is an Asean Heritage Park. The National Parks Board's director of Central Nature Reserve Sharon Chan said that since the agency took over the management of Bukit Timah in 1992, annual visitorship had increased from less than 100,000 to 400,000 thanks to successful outreach programmes.
When the decision to close the reserve was made two years ago, many parts of the trail network had become badly eroded through heavy use. Visitors often trod along the sides of the trail to avoid muddy sections, for instance. Ms Chan said it was important to stay on the trail to minimise erosion and protect the habitat.
To engage the public, a new exhibition hall has been set up at the reserve's visitor centre at Hindhede Drive along with a seminar room.
A two-year biodiversity survey of the reserve is also under way. The data will help the authorities manage the reserve more sensitively.