Things are heating up in Sembawang once again, with the reopening of Singapore's only hot spring.
Sembawang Hot Spring Park reopened yesterday after a $4.3 million redevelopment, expanding from its original 0.1ha to 1.1ha now.
The park, which was closed in August 2018 for the development works, now features a new cascading pool and a water collection point, with enhanced accessibility for wheelchair users.
There are also educational panels for visitors to learn more about the history and geology of the hot spring park, which is accessible from Gambas Avenue.
Ms Kartini Omar, group director of parks development at the National Parks Board (NParks), said that in designing the park, "NParks incorporated feedback and suggestions from the community from a public consultation in end-2017".
Among the suggestions were having a food and beverage outlet, an activity lawn and toilets, and ensuring the park remains "rustic and natural", said Ms Kartini.
At the launch, Sembawang GRC MPs - Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, Mr Amrin Amin and Dr Lim Wee Kiak - together with Nee Soon GRC MPs - Ms Lee Bee Wah and Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim - planted island lychee and hairless rambutan trees to mark the occasion in front of over 450 residents.
The new features of the park, such as the cascading pool, aim to bring the geothermally heated groundwater closer to visitors.
The cascading pool sees the water cool naturally as it flows down four tiers, with visitors able to dip in.
The park is also more inclusive, with wheelchair-friendly ramps and a specially designed tap at the main water collection point for those with disabilities.
The water collection point allows visitors of all ages to use pails and scoops readily. Visitors may also boil eggs at this station.
NParks said in a media statement that plants have been planted in the park to recreate kampung life, including fruit trees and edible plants commonly found in kampungs, and flowers commonly seen between the 1960s and 1990s.
What's in the water?
The water spouting out of the ground at the reopened Sembawang Hot Spring Park is rich in minerals.
Earlier studies revealed that it has substantially more chloride and three times more sulphide content than regular tap water.
The spring water is also slightly alkaline due to its mineral content.
It is said to cure rheumatism and heal skin problems such as acne and psoriasis, but there is no scientific evidence to back these claims.
The water's exact source is unknown, but it could be far off to the north-west of the location, possibly in Bukit Timah and on high ground.
Nanyang Technological University researchers previously found that the spring was formed as water flowed through granite at a speed of 150 litres a minute.
The water enters the rock through cracks and fractures, and then travels 3km underground.
It heats up as it moves towards the earth's core, hitting temperatures of between 100 deg C and 150 deg C. Pressure then forces the heated water upwards, and it rises through cracks in the rocks to the surface. By the time it emerges, the temperature would have fallen to 70 deg C.
At Sembawang Hot Spring Park, the water cools naturally as it flows down four tiers of pools.
At the highest tier, the water is 70 deg C, but by the time it flows to the lowest tier, it would have cooled to about 40 deg C - a temperature suitable for contact with human skin, said Ms Kartini Omar, group director of parks development at the National Parks Board.
Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, shared in a Facebook post that he had contributed several rose apple seeds, which he brought from Penang three years ago, to the park.
There are also unpaved paths and naturalised streams flowing from the hot spring, to mimic the freshwater swamp forest landscape.
Mr Rakunathan Narayanan, 60, who has lived in Yishun for over 30 years, is glad that the rustic nature of the location is being preserved.
"They should have done this long ago. You won't find this anywhere else in Singapore," said the security officer.
He has fond memories of cycling to the hot spring about 30 years ago, when the area was still a kampung.
Jalan Mata Ayer resident Matthew Tan, 46, who works in the paint industry, said having different temperatures in each level of the cascade pool is a "cool concept".
Mr Tan, who was at the park with his wife and two sons, added that his home is a 10-minute walk away, and he looks forward to patronising the cafe at the park often.
The hot spring was first discovered in 1908.
During the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1944, the Japanese built thermal baths around the spring, and the site became recreational grounds for their officers.
In 1985, the Singapore Government acquired the land for military use, with plans to expand Sembawang Air Base and cover the hot spring.
Appeals by the local community saw the creation of a small concrete base with standpipes to channel the hot water in 2002.
Sembawang Hot Spring Park is open from 7am to 7pm daily, and visitors can enter for free.
Mr Ong said he was grateful to the Ministry of Defence for carving out a part of Chong Pang Camp to be developed into a park, and thanked NParks for sharing and fulfilling the "unique" vision of having Singapore's one and only hot spring park.
He added that the hot spring park is part of the wider development of Sembawang.
"What we want to ensure is as we develop, don't forget to 'sayang' Sembawang. It is a place with history, with nature, with its own character.
"It's through projects like this that we bring out the unique character of Sembawang."