Makeover for Jurong gardens

The footpaths at the Chinese Garden are in need of repair. Wood that has rotted or become infested by termites has to be removed.

SINGAPORE - The iconic Chinese and Japanese gardens in Jurong are getting a makeover.

The Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), which manages the gardens, is planning a year-long "redecoration and refurbishment" project, starting from year end.

The statutory board told The Straits Times that the project will include "architectural repairs, electrical and repainting works".

"The gardens would still be open to the public except for those areas that are under repair," said a spokesman.

It declined to say how much the makeover is expected to cost or when the last refurbishment was done, downplaying it as part of the "regular maintenance" of the parks.

But the extensive refurbishment list obtained by The Straits Times tells a different story.

The areas to be repaired include the main entrance plaza, the pavilions, the iconic pagodas, the Stone Boat and footpaths.

The repair works involve removing wood that has rotted or become infested by termites. These also include patching up spalling concrete and cracked walls, replacing broken and loose roof tiles, stopping water leakage, as well as replacing old electrical wiring, timber footpaths or rusted fittings.

A contractor who saw pictures of areas to be repaired said the damage would have developed over several years.

"It does not look like regular maintenance," said the contractor with over 20 years' experience, who declined to be named for fear of offending the JTC.

The gardens are among the most famous landmarks in Jurong and have a storied history. About the size of 26 football fields in total, the Japanese Garden opened to the public in 1973 and the Chinese Garden, in 1975.

They cost $3 million and $5 million respectively at that time and were the brainchild of the late deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee.

The Japanese Garden was designed by renowned Japanese architect Kinsaku Nakane and was the largest of its kind outside Japan at the time of its opening.

The Chinese Garden was built initially with Song dynasty architecture features such as the Stone Boat inspired by the Beijing Summer Palace. In 1991, it expanded by adding Suzhou style landscape.

David Ong, a Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC, said it is important for such parks and gardens in the HDB heartland to be well maintained.

"These are important community spaces in land-scarce Singapore. Residents have strong emotional attachments to them," said Mr Ong.

He added: "These are not just places for exercising, but also relaxing and recreation."

Taman Jurong resident S. L. Chan, 43, agrees.

"The makeover is timely, otherwise the gardens will not be able to keep up with the rejuvenation of the area," she said.

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This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.