About a year ago, we launched the southern part of the Chestnut Nature Park at this very same pavilion. Some of my Parliamentary colleagues were here with me, and we went for a walk. Today, we come full circle by opening the northern part of Chestnut Nature Park. And so today, Chestnut Nature Park will be whole - so two halves of a chestnut, make a whole Chestnut Nature Park. It has now become the largest Nature Park in Singapore, at 81 hectares.

Importance of Nature Parks

Chestnut will be our fifth Nature Park. Nature Parks are special and they play a unique role in our City in a Garden.

First, they protect our Nature Reserves by serving as a physical green buffer. Chestnut Park protects our Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Now second, Nature Parks provide more opportunities for Singaporeans to experience our rich biodiversity. At Chestnut, you may encounter forest species uncommon in neighbourhood parks. In fact, NParks has carefully reforested Chestnut by planting native tree species like the Kayu Arang, Small-leaved Oil-fruit, and Fan Palm. These species attract birds, insects, and butterflies, and so you may spot the Dollar Bird or Emerald Dove which are not usually seen outside forests. In fact, on a tree just next to the carpark, some of our environmentalists spotted some long tailed parakeets, saw a woodpecker, as well as starlings, all nested on a tree.

Our Nature Parks intertwine local biodiversity with our urban experience. And that indeed was the finding of an MIT World Economic Forum report - that as a city we have one of the densest streetscape and greenery, that brings biodiversity, that brings greenery right through the heart of the city. So city and greenery become intertwined as one.

Third, our Nature Parks allow communities to pursue varied outdoor interests without impacting on the Nature Reserves themselves. Chestnut has been designed for hikers, joggers, and mountain bike enthusiasts, all to enjoy. This is our first Nature Park with designated hiking as well as biking facilities and trails.

As you can see, our Nature Parks have a special place in our City in a Garden. In fact, we will be launching more Nature Parks, and you can look forward to Windsor Nature Park, which will be opening later this year.

Friends of Chestnut Nature Park

But it is not just about developing parks. We also need to embrace them, enhance them, and make them our very own. This is why we started a 'Friends of the Parks' Community in Chestnut last year - chaired by Mr Sivasothi, comprising NParks' volunteers, green groups, hikers, mountain bikers, exercise groups, nature photographers, researchers and other users of the park. Mr Sivasothi and the rest of his team have been keenly involved in developing this Park as well as organising the activities that you see around you today.

One of the first things that the Community did, I understand, was to develop etiquette and first aid guidelines for the different trails at Chestnut. This is a good first step in creating a safe and pleasant experience for everyone.

Meanwhile, the biking enthusiasts in the community have been quite busy too. Besides carrying out repairs at the Bukit Timah Mountain Biking Trail, they also organised the Singapore Open Enduro 2016. Sounds like a very challenging and difficult competition. This race started at the Kent Ridge Mountain Biking Trail and ended at the Chestnut South Mountain Biking Loop. I'm sure they will enjoy the new trails we are opening today.

On the nature conservation front, Siva organised a community tree-planting event at this very site just last month. About 30 members of the community, comprising hikers, bikers, volunteers and others, planted a total of 50 native trees in one morning.

The Friends of Chestnut Nature Park have generously volunteered their time to make this Park their own. And on behalf of NParks and the community, I would like to thank Siva and all the members for their hard work. Thank you for partnering NParks as co-stewards, and for developing a sense of pride and ownership, and a sense of home, in this Park. It is this community spirit that makes places special.

I have said before, it is one thing to have Nature Reserves that you keep apart from a city, keep apart from its people, conserved by prohibiting activity in and around the Nature Reserve. But in Singapore it is different, our Nature Reserve is in the heart of the city, our nature areas buffer our Nature Reserve, and are in the heart of the city, a stone's throw away from the homes of many of you who are here today. So, we have to be one step ahead, as a biophilic city we need to be active stewards of our biodiversity. Actively care for it, research it, study it, share its beauty and wonders and joy with people, and that is why we set up a Friends of the Park Community.

In addition to Chestnut, we have four other Friends of the Parks Communities. They are at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Pulau Ubin, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and our Park Connector Network, and we will set up more. We will be setting up the Friends of the Parks Communities for Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, and the Sisters' Island Marine Park. And as I said previously, for Sisters' Island Marine Park, the community will help us to draft the rules for the government of the Sisters' Island Marine Park, and its proper management. I hope that more people will come forward to join these Communities and partner NParks to set up new ones.

But for now, let me end by simply congratulating everyone involved in this project for a job well done. The fruits of your effort are literally all around us to see.

Thank you and have a wonderful morning. We have wonderful weather, go out there, walk the trails, don't stick to your own groups, there are people carrying powerful binoculars, if you see something interesting, they will be very happy to share their binoculars with you and excite you about the species that inhabit this Nature Park, together with all of us.

Source: Ministry of National Development, Singapore