Monday 20 February 2012

Coney Island set to become nature park

By Kezia Toh, The Sunday Times, 19 Feb 2012

Coney Island, off Punggol in the north-west, will be home to Singapore's ninth nature park, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

The island, a popular spot for anglers and rich in natural biodiversity, will become a sprawling 50ha 'green lung'.

Thanks to its rich flora and fauna, Coney Island will be a stand-alone nature park. The other nature parks are typically buffers for nature reserves.

Lush vegetation covers nearly 90 per cent of the island. Wildlife species that have been spotted there include the white-bellied sea eagle, a large bird with a considerable soaring range.

The park is expected to be ready in two years and a tender will be called in the middle of this year.

Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan 2008, the island was to be a park and an open space.

The time is ripe for a park in the area, said NParks director of parks development Yeo Meng Tong.

'Now that Punggol is an up-and-coming town, it is the right time to develop a nature park there,' he added.

The island is linked by a bridge to Punggol.

NParks plans to leave the park as untouched as possible, just like its other nature parks, with minimal lights to avoid disturbing wildlife at night and non-concrete footpaths, for example.

Tampines Eco Green, the latest nature park in Singapore which was unveiled last year, is a possible design model for the Coney Island park.

The 36.5ha ecologically themed park is made up of marshland, ponds and secondary rainforest. Only 2.5ha of the land has park amenities, with the rest left untouched.

Meanwhile, two other projects will be coming up - smaller community parks less than 1ha in size.

The first, at the junction of Holland Avenue and Holland Road, is under construction at a cost of about $500,000. It is likely to be ready by the middle of this year.

The other is in the Springleaf private estate near Upper Thomson Road. It will feature two shelters, one of which is fashioned from a recycled roof of a community house. A footpath will lead to a nearby canal. The park is likely to be ready by the end of next year.

As announced by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in Parliament last month, there will be a total of 20 new parks over the next five years.

Mr Yeo from NParks said the creation of more green spaces comes with catering for a growing population.

For example, the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Sustainable Development unveiled a blueprint for the country's sustainable development in 2009, detailing key initiatives for the next 10 to 20 years.

One of these was to reach a park provision of 0.8ha per 1,000 people, which means each person should enjoy 8 sq m of green space.

Meanwhile, the new parks are drawing compliments from environmentalists.

Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chairman of the Nature Society Singapore's conservation committee, lauded the idea of having a nature park on Coney Island to preserve its rich flora and fauna.

He said: 'This includes casuarina trees that harbour birds of prey such as the native grey-headed fish eagle, and jerdon's baza, a rare migratory bird.'

Leaving the land as untouched as possible is vital, he added.

'Just like Tampines Eco Green - it should be left more or less as it is, with woodland intact and a natural trail without concrete pavements.'

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