Vivian joins call to keep biking trail open

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan has urged NParks to reconsider closing one of its trails in the Central Catchment Area after a cyclist wrote to him concerning the closure.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has urged the National Parks Board (NParks) to reconsider closing a trail in the Central Catchment area.

He revealed this in an e-mail on Monday to concerned cyclist Lee Kee Tar, 45, who earlier wrote to him about the closure.

Called the Butterfly Trail, the 3.2km route popular with mountain bikers was closed by NParks in March as parts of it fell within the construction site of the upcoming Chestnut Nature Park.

Mr Lee posted the reply on a Facebook group page for mountain bikers. In his e-mail, Dr Balakrishnan called the trail, which had its beginnings decades ago as a kampung path, one of the "best secrets" in the mountain biking community. "I am very familiar with the Butterfly Trail as I used to cycle there personally many years ago," he wrote. "I have appealed for reconsideration by NParks. Will wait for their response."

With the opening of the Chestnut Nature Park, NParks is considering permanently closing the trail, known for its gnarled tree roots and views of Upper Peirce Reservoir. The Nature Society (Singapore) is lobbying for it to stay closed, noting recreational activities have damaged the century-old nature area off Chestnut Avenue.

NParks said it had received Dr Balakrishnan's request and was studying it.

There are only four other areas officially open to mountain bikers - in Bukit Timah, Mandai, Kent Ridge and Pulau Ubin.

Mr Lee told The Straits Times yesterday he was thankful Dr Balakrishnan had written to NParks.

"It was very nice of him," said the finance manager. "Being a cyclist himself, he would understand our concerns, and obviously he rode there before, so he knows how special the trail is."

Last week, the Nature Society (Singapore) met the Mountain Bike Association Singapore (MBASG) to exchange views on the trail's closure.

"This area is well known to be high-quality primary and regrowth forest hosting many nationally endangered species of flora and fauna throughout its extent," said Mr Tony O'Dempsey, chairman of the society's plant group. He noted the society stood firm that no recreational activity should be allowed in these areas.

Meanwhile, an MBASG petition started last week to save the trail has garnered more than 1,200 signatures. "We will be submitting it to the Government soon," said MBASG president Calvin Chin. "The Government has to take a stand and allow some recreation in nature areas. They've made it happen in areas like MacRitchie."

This article was first published on June 11, 2015.
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