THE wheels have stopped turning at one of Singapore's last five mountain biking trails.
The 3km-long Butterfly trail, located off Chestnut Avenue in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, was closed for "upgrading works" in March by the National Parks Board (NParks).
According to an NParks notice at the entrance of the trail, it is supposed to reopen in the fourth quarter of this year.
However, The Straits Times understands that NParks is likely to close it permanently.
The waterside track was not an official mountain biking trail - unlike those at Bukit Timah, Kent Ridge and Pulau Ubin - but bikers said they had been riding the kampung path for at least 30 years.
The move comes after the Tampines Bike Park - which had a mountain biking trail and the only BMX track here - was closed in September last year to make way for a housing development.
NParks director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah said the trail was closed because of the construction of Chestnut Nature Park. "As the entrance and part of Butterfly trail fall within the construction site... the area had to be closed to visitors for public safety," he said.
He noted that trail had widened and deteriorated significantly in recent years because of "increasing human usage", which was damaging the forest.
Seeking the understanding of cyclists, he said the new nature park will open by the end of 2016 and feature more than 6km of cycling trails in a different location.
"Unlike the Butterfly trail, hikers and bikers can look forward to separate trails designed specifically for each activity," he said.
But cycling enthusiasts are still disappointed.
"It is an extremely beautiful trail," said Mr Jason Lim, 40, a mountain biker and stockbroker. "A portion of it hugs the fringe of Upper Peirce Reservoir - you are riding just beside peaceful and clear waters."
The Mountain Bike Association Singapore (MBAS), which has around 1,000 members, intends to submit a petition to the Government to encourage it to reconsider closing the site.
Its president, Mr Calvin Chin, believes the Butterfly trail can be combined with the new trail at Chestnut Nature Park and another nearby trail called Track 15.
"There could be a solid opportunity to have close to 30km of mountain bike trails within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve," said Mr Chin, 40, a business development manager.
He said that MBAS had lobbied about two years ago to open the trail for recreational use. Before then, riders who used it did so illegally, risking fines from NParks.
MBAS carried out its own environmental impact study at the time, which showed that there were no endangered species there - and sent it to NParks, which then allowed hikers and bikers in informally.
"We have trail days where we will maintain and repair the track," said Mr Chin. "We have taken good care of this place."
Former national cyclist Junaidi Hashim, 33, said: "It is pretty sad. We keep getting news that more and more trails are closing - there are so few places left to ride."
This article was first published on May 19, 2015.
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