No more bottle trees, but new park retains old charm

No more bottle trees, but new park retains old charm
The various amenities of Orto, a new leisure park in Yishun that took the place of the former Bottle Tree Park.

A new leisure park where visitors can go fishing or prawning round the clock has opened on the site of the former Bottle Tree Park in Yishun.

Called Orto, which means garden in Italian, the park is about the size of seven football fields.

Attractions there include a fishing pond, 10 ponds for prawning, and four eateries, including Thai BBQ restaurant Mookata.

A trampoline park, a futsal pitch and a paintball field will be added to the park by its grand opening in June.

Located at 81 Lorong Chencharu, the park was opened to the public on Feb 17 and is an eight-minute walk from Khatib MRT station.

It is managed by China-based Fullshare Leisure Group, which spent $8 million and six months to revamp the place. The company secured the site lease last July with a bid of $169,000 a month.

This was more than double the $68,000 bid put in by Bottle Tree, a company that had run a rustic leisure park there since 2006. The park closed on Aug 10 last year when its lease ended.

When Fullshare won the bid, fans of the former Bottle Tree Parkwere initially worried that the place would lose its kampung feel under the new management.

Ms Yen Sim, senior manager of corporate communications and branding at Fullshare, said Orto has "maintained some good attributes" of the former park.

The 100m-by-100m fishing pond, run by Fishing Paradise, is still there, but with cleaner waters. A neighbouring pond, previously overgrown with plants, has been cleared up and converted into a lotus pond, which acts as a natural filter for the water.

The group also spent more than $20,000 buying over 70 per cent of the existing trees from Bottle Tree. These were mostly fruit trees, however, and none of the bottle trees remain.

"They don't survive quite well in Singapore weather. Only a few survived, and they were taken away by the old management," said the group's assistant general manager Samuel Liu.

Parking and entry to the attraction continue to be free.

The tenure of the site is three years, with an option to extend it until April 2020.

There are plans for a fifth restaurant, compared to two in the past. But rentals for businesses operating there are also higher, which means visitors will have to pay more for the activities.

Fishing Paradise owner Edmund Kong, 36, raised prices by 20 per cent after his rent rose by more than half. An hour of fishing now costs $12, up from $10.

"Now that we're open 24 hours, we see more crowds. Previously we closed at 3am," he said.

Despite the higher prices, visitors said they were glad the park retained its relaxed vibe.

"The place is clean and more comfortable," said production operator Nur Sofia Abdullah, 37, who lives near the park.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on MARCH 2, 2015.
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