Two nature trails to run through Clementi Forest

Safe access to greenery while minimising impact on biodiversity; new link to Jurong Lake Gardens

Parts of Clementi Forest will be safeguarded as two new nature trails will be created, the National Parks Board (NParks) said yesterday.

Nature enthusiasts had called for the conservation of the luxuriant forest and the wildlife in it.

A stretch of the 2km Clementi Nature Trail will run along an existing stream within the Clementi Forest. The trail will connect the existing Rail Corridor to an upcoming nature park in Dover Forest. It will be completed by 2023.

A 4km path will run along a stretch of the old Jurong Railway Line, which was operational from 1965 to 1992.

The Old Jurong Line Nature Trail - as it will be called - will run along parts of the old line and feature railway tracks, bridges and tunnels. It will be completed in stages from 2024, NParks said.

The two new nature trails will also connect with Jurong Lake Gardens via a new 3km park connector to be built. In total, these green threads, along with 9km of existing trails and park connectors, will provide those who live in the western part of Singapore with a network comprising 18km of trails.

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said in a pre-recorded video yesterday at the launch of the new green network that the two new nature trails will provide safe access for Singaporeans to enjoy greenery while minimising impact on biodiversity.

At the same time, the country's heritage will also be conserved, Mr Lee said, pointing to how the Old Jurong Line Nature Trail will enable people to experience "both nature and a slice of our heritage at the same time".

Both the Dover and Clementi forest plots have been in the spotlight in recent months, amid a growing interest among residents to preserve the country's wild spaces.

The authorities have said there is no immediate need to develop Clementi Forest.

As for Dover, the Housing Board said on Friday that it will develop only the eastern half for public housing in the near term. The more biodiverse western half of the site will be left fallow for now, although the authorities have given their assurance that a nature park will be carved from it.

Last October, drone footage of the Clementi Forest at dawn spread widely on social media. The beauty of the site captured by nature enthusiast Brice Li, 53, spurred many to attempt exploring Clementi Forest on their own.

The authorities eventually issued a statement advising people against doing so, as the site was unmanaged and tree fall incidents and unpaved trails could pose safety risks to hikers.

Wildlife, too, was affected by the influx of people to Clementi Forest.

In May, The Straits Times reported that the numbers of two rare orchid species - Dienia ophrydis and Zeuxine clandestina - had fallen sharply after more hikers took to crossing Clementi Forest.

NParks researchers went on a rescue mission to retrieve wild plants and nurture them at the Singapore Botanic Gardens to ensure the continued survival of both species.

The two new trails will also accommodate wildlife moving between Singapore's fragmented forest plots.

Mr Li, in response to the latest announcement on the new nature trails, told The Sunday Times: "It was a pleasant surprise."

He said he had sent a proposal to the authorities last November, suggesting that a boardwalk and nature trail be established to allow visitors to enjoy the space responsibly.

"There are safety concerns now, as the terrain is rough, so hopefully the new trails will make the space accessible to more, but not overly managed, so it remains as natural as possible," he said.

NParks said it will set up a Friends of Clementi Nature Corridor volunteer group so that the public can help manage the trails and enhance natural habitats along them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 01, 2021, with the headline 'Two nature trails to run through Clementi Forest'. Subscribe