SINGAPORE - The National Parks Board (NParks) said it has been working with Hash House Harriers to reduce the practice of marking out running routes, after a "hashing" group left flour at Woodleigh MRT Station on Tuesday (April 18) and sparked a security scare.
Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Mr Wong Tuan Wah, group director of conservation at NParks, said NParks has been working with Hash House Harriers to "reduce the need of using markers when they run in NParks-managed areas".
ST understands that this is not in reaction to Tuesday's incident, but instead is part of ongoing discussions.
Advance runners from Hash House Harriers groups mark out a trail using flour, chalk or toilet paper so that the runners after them can pick up the "clues" and follow the route.
One man was arrested and two others are assisting with police investigations after flour left at various parts of Woodleigh MRT Station on Tuesday (April 18) led to the station being closed for more than three hours and police and Singapore Civil Defence Officers being deployed.
"NParks regularly meets up with Hash House Harriers (HHH) to advise on the rules regarding 'hash' running in our managed areas," said Mr Wong on Thursday.
He added that chalk and flour are prohibited in NParks-managed areas as the substances "are more difficult to clean up, might seep into and cause damage to the environment". If consumed, these substances might also have detrimental effects on wildlife.
"Only toilet or tissue paper are allowed to be used as markings, and they must be cleaned up immediately after the event," he said. "If they are not cleaned up, enforcement action could be taken."
Under the Parks and Tree Act, those who litter in parks and nature reserves can be fined up to $5,000.
Mr Ken Ong, chairman of the Hash House Harriers, Singapore, told ST that using toilet paper to mark trails within NParks areas was an agreement reached between NParks and the hashing community.
"The condition imposed is that we will have to remove all traces of the paper latest by noon the next day," he said. "Usually, we have one of the members setting the trail pick up all the paper as soon as the last runner has gone by, within the very same day."
When asked about Tuesday's incident, where runners from the Seletar Hash House Harriers sprinkled flour at Woodleigh MRT Station, Mr Ong said: "Those men from Tuesday Hash were setting a trail for their fellow members, marking it with flour."
He added that his group, which runs on Mondays, "almost always set our runs in non-urban areas, thereby avoiding sensitive locations like MRT stations and such".
In a statement issued on Wednesday (April 19), the Seletar Hash House Harriers apologised to the public and authorities for the alarm and inconvenience caused.
They explained that three of its members had chosen to use the MRT underpass for members to go from Bidadari towards Woodleigh Close "as this provided the safest route to cross Upper Serangoon Road".