Singapore's most loved rainforest will, for the first time, be getting a much-needed reprieve from the hordes of people who traipse through it each day.
Come Sept 15, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve will close its doors to the public for six months.
This is the first phase of a two-year plan to repair the 22-year-old reserve, which is showing signs of damage in some areas.
After this, nature enthusiasts can venture into the reserve, but access will be limited for the next 18 months or so.
It will be open only on weekends, and people will be allowed only on the Main Road stretching from the visitor centre to the summit of Bukit Timah Hill.
The National Parks Board (NParks) announced these plans yesterday, adding that the arrangements were made for the safety of visitors during ongoing works. The phased approach was also taken to "minimise inconvenience to visitors", it said.
Works are expected to be completed by the end of 2016.
The 163ha nature reserve, home to more than 40 per cent of Singapore's native flora and fauna, is one of Singapore's most popular nature spots, with over 400,000 visitors last year.
"We seek the understanding of the public for the need to limit access... so extensive enhancements can be carried out to stabilise slopes, repair trails, upgrade the visitor centre and restore the forest environment," said Dr Leong Chee Chiew, commissioner of parks and recreation and deputy chief executive of NParks.
The restoration comes after about five years of observations and discussions with external consultants, NParks said, and will be done in three main areas:
Three stretches of weakened slopes bordering pathways will be stabilised to prevent landslides. This will be done by piling concrete or wooden beams into the pathway. The beams form a wall that prevents soil movement.
NParks will upgrade amenities such as an exhibition hall for outreach and educational activities. More washroom facilities will also be built.
About 4.5km of trails damaged by constant visitor footfall will be restored. A 1.3km stretch of this will also be replaced by boardwalks - elevated platforms that prevent visitors from trampling on forest litter and top soil.
Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society (Singapore), a group that NParks consulted, said that the proposed works would not only improve public safety, but would also boost the forest ecosystem's long-term health.
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.