We spent an afternoon at the rustic Coney Island, walked a distance of 7.6km in total and saw lots of flora and fauna along the way, including some very friendly hens and otters frolicking in the water. We also stumbled upon the derelict Haw Par Beach Villa nestled in the mangroves.
Coney Island Park is located on the 50ha offshore Coney Island, which is connected to the mainland by two bridges on its western and eastern ends to Punggol Promenade and Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park 6. It is an ecologically sustainable park with many environmental initiatives. It focuses on conserving energy and water, recycling and retaining the natural elements in the park.
To give that authentic feel, there is no electricity or piped water on the island. Instead, electricity to power the pumps for toilets is generated from solar power, while water for flushing and hand washing is harvested from rain. Most of the signboards, benches and boardwalks are made using timber from uprooted casuarina trees, which grow well on coastal habitats like those on Coney Island.
If you’re lucky, you may spot the lone cow that lives here. The cow on Coney Island is a free-roaming Brahman that has made its home in the park. The Brahman is a breed of Zebu cattle that originated from South Asia. It was only noticed after the dam crossings were built and its presence on the island remains a mystery. We didn’t see the cow when we were there, but found the signboards about what to do should you encounter it really amusing. We were however lucky enough to see a couple of friendly hens and the infamous family of otters hunting for fish in the surrounding waters.
The history of the island, also known as Pulau Serangoon, dates back to the 1930s, when it was bought over by the Haw Par brothers – Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, who built a beach villa there. The villa fell into disrepair after World War II and the island remained uninhabited until 1950.
The villa has historical links to the Haw Par brothers and Tiger Balm. As the building is structurally unsound, the public access is advised not to enter the villa. Members of the public should not to attempt to visit the villa on their own, as it is situated within a mangrove area that is subject to rising of tides.
In 1950, Indian businessman Ghulam Mahmood bought the island with the intention to turn it into a resort. He named it after the Coney Island amusement park in New York, but his plans never materialised after he was fined for corruption.
Besides being rich in history, this little island houses a wide variety of habitats, including coastal forests, grasslands, mangroves, and casuarina woodlands. It is home to a wide variety of fauna and flora, some of which are critically endangered. Some plants at the park are presumed nationally extinct in the wild.
The beaches within Coney Island Park have been intentionally left uncleared. Each of the five beach areas is home to a plants of a particular habitat or theme. The timber from uprooted Casuarina trees were collected and recycled into park signage, seats, benches, boardwalk.
Guided walks will be made available to members of the public in November and December 2015. Conducted by NParks volunteers, participants will learn about the biodiversity at the park, as well get a chance to visit the Haw Par Beach Villa.