Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Exploring Coney Island: Singapore's New Outdoor Paradise!

Hi guys,

Let us explore one of the most classic roller coasters in the world! Coney Island Cyclone at New York City! It has a top speed of 96 kph and...wait...no...NO... I am talking about a different Coney Island, and there are no cyclones there. Yup! I am talking about the new nature reserve in the North Eastern park of Singapore, one that is sure to be favourite of runners, nature lovers and bird spotters alike!

Coney Island was originally planned to be a recreational and lifestyle hub for the North-Eastern part of Singapore, presumably with chalets, retail and entertainment options. However, due to the success of the Green Corridor and other outdoor/nature based developments, Coney Island became a Nature Park. Here, most of the land is preserved in its natural state and any construction uses mostly natural materials.

Coney Island officially opened to the public on 10 October 2015.

About Coney Island

Following the away-from-city-life theme, the only way into Coney Island is by human powered transport: walking, running, cycling, skating, you get the idea. Coney Island is accessed through 2 bridges, both serving as dams for the Sungei Serangoon Reservoir. To get to the Punggol side entrance, you first have to take bus 84 from Punggol Interchange (beside Punggol MRT), then walk about 500m (8-10mins) from Punggol Jetty to the entrance of Coney Island.

The Pasir Ris side is not so accessible but is linked to Pasir Ris Park.

This is one of the dams leading into Coney Island. This is the Pasir Ris side entrance.

The Punggol side entrance also crosses over a "dam", though this dam is not as "high tech" as the Pasir Ris side one.

Feeling eco-friendly anyone?

In line with the nature theme, the main path of Coney Island is sandy rather than paved. The sandy path is good for runners because you can reduce the risk of injury. Also, even the signboards and direction signs are built using collapsed trees from the island. The whole park is about 2.4km from one end to another, so it is a great place to train for your IPPT/NAPFA! Even my visually challenged friends agree that it is quite a comfortable place to run.

Coney Island has a main sandy path as well as several smaller paved paths

  • Cyclists beware. Thin tyred racing bikes are not suitable for the sandy paths. Bicycle stands will also sink into the ground so you have to lean your bike against a tree.
  • If I remember correctly, there is only 1 toilet in Coney Island and no water coolers?. As such, you are advised to bring your own water!
  • There are almost no lights at Coney Island. Do not go there at night!
Usual warning signs

The whole park is about 2.4km in length and includes 3 beaches, a play area and several paths

Nature lovers, you will love this. Also good for Secondary School students studying Geography (Forests)

Even the direction signs are made from natural wood, taken from trees that collapsed in Coney Island

The Play Area

If you think that Coney Island is all for adults and nature geeks, you are wrong. Coney Island boasts one of the most unique Children Play areas that I have seen in Singapore. In fact, every single play structure from balance beams to step puddles are made entirely from collapsed trees! In fact, I never realised that it was a playground until I saw several kids climbing all around the place.

You will never guess that this is actually a playground, but it is!

A good place for mum and dad to rest while the kids are playing. Even the roof of the pavilion has plants growing (cannot be seen from this angle)! 

Balance Beam anyone? I assure you it is harder than the standard rectangular ones!

Or how about this! River crossing at it's simplest!

Try to stop the kid that is running through this "bridge"!

The Beach Area

Coney Island has 3 main beach areas. The first one (shown in the pictures below) are protected by stepped seawalls and rocks. The other 2 areas are more sandy and similar to Pasir Ris/Changi Beaches - without the litter. This is a good place to watch the sun-rise (if you can wake up early enough)

Look at how high the tide comes in!

No fishing. Enough said!

This is what happens when sand covers the sign!

The view from Coney Island beaches. Palau Ubin is in the background!

The Verdict

I think that the decision to turn Coney Island into a park is a smart move. Singaporeans now have greater awareness about being eco-friendly and leading an active lifestyle, and Coney Island fits both perfectly. The hard-to-enter location also adds to the "mystique" to the place, making people feel that they truly escaped from the city.

However, I do wish that NParks will crush the large stones along the sand path because they are a tripping hazard. Also, the small entrance gate at both ends of the park are too small and do not facilitate good crowd flow. Nonetheless, these are minor points.

Just a word of caution, though. Urban Development Authority (URA) still lists Coney Island as an area for "residential, sport, and recreational use". This means that the nature park is probably temporary and large scale developments may happen there in the future. So let's enjoy it while it lasts!

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