Protruding stones a danger to MacRitchie visitors

From ‘Dangerous obstacles along MacRitchie Trail’, 14 Sept 2013, ST Forum

(Larry Quah Chai Koon):ON JULY 12, I was exercising at the MacRitchie nature trail when my foot struck a protruding stone. I lost my balance and flew forward, crashing onto my left shoulder. I fractured my left collarbone, cracked two ribs and suffered multiple lacerations on my body.

The incident happened at a downhill segment of the trail, leading to the TreeTop Walk and parallel to the Singapore Island Country Club service road. This stretch is not only undulating but also full of short tree stumps, protruding roots and stones.

I have heard of other accidents along this trail that left visitors injured. Feedback has been given to the National Parks Board but it seems that no action has been taken to clear the obstacles.

I understand that the nature trail has to be left untouched as much as possible, but maintenance should be undertaken to remove protruding stones, branches and roots that may pose a danger to visitors.


This isn’t the first time that a jogger/hiker at MacRItchie reservoir has complained about Mother Nature being a terrorising bitch and requesting that the authorities do something about it.  In 1975, a ‘Michael Lee’ took issue with the forest paths which were overly ‘undulating’ and its small pools of water being an ‘ideal place’ for mosquito breeding. Jogging in the forest seems like the perfect escapist activity for exercise enthusiasts who want something rugged and is the closest thing to an ‘extreme’ sport in a country where you can’t ski or go spelunking in caves. When a jogger falls down in the forest, unlike the tree of the beloved Zen koan, he makes the loudest noise. Even if nothing happens to him physically, he could get lost in MacRitchie. For up to 18 HOURS. Even I could have completed a full marathon by then.

I’m not sure how one goes about removing ‘protruding stones’. They could be the tip of an embedded boulder and would need a drill or chainsaw to skim off. Overdo the rock removal and you may get uneven pitting, which may not only trip people up but breed mosquitoes too. Pulling out roots may not be a good idea either. You may avoid tripping over them and suffer multiple lacerations, but in place of that you could also get crushed to death if the destabilised tree collapses on you. But why are you worried about stumbling over rocks when there are other malicious perils that lurk in the wild? How about slipping on MUD while downslope? Or worse, a smooth, wayward TWIG? Don’t get me started on fallen leaves. Those things are the worst, you could have centipedes clinging to your socks if you dash through them.

Curiously enough, ‘Larry Quah Chai Khoon’ has written to the ST about wildlife previously. In 2005, he complained about a dog killing a cat, a year later on people feeding monkeys , and in 2007 ticked off a bunch of noisy kids in a roti prata restaurant (which drew the wrath of blogger ‘Blabberbutt‘). In April this year he expressed concern about mercury in energy saving bulbs (How to dispose of energy saving bulbs?25 April 2013, My Point, ST Forum). If these complainants are in fact the same person, then he seems like someone who genuinely appreciates environmental conservation from a comfortable distance, but disapproves of killer tree stumps and jagged stones when he starts getting up close and personal with the gritty reality of nature. Wild boars are nothing compared to these clandestine death traps, which pose a tricky hurdle even to NParks rangers on Brompton bikes.

Part of the thrill of forest running is ‘overcoming’ such natural ‘obstacles’ after all, otherwise you’re better off strolling in Bishan Park or catching butterflies in a wide open field. Adventure comes with a price, and If stones alone bother you, then imagine what God’s creatures could do to make your Sunday jog as stressful as outrunning bulls at the Pamplona festival , like being attacked by a stray PYTHON, a swarm of hornets or a swooping VULTURE.

A response by a member of the Nature Society in 1983 neatly summed up the sensible attitude that one should adopt when engaging in any form of forest activity, that the ‘wild’ should be treated with ‘respect, COMMON SENSE and caution’. And oh yes – to keep your damn eyes open for wily stones too. I suppose that would fall under the category of ‘common sense’, no?

Postscript: In a Sunday Times article (Leave nature trail alone, 22 Sept 2013) 65 year old MacRitchie enthusiast Larry Quah was interviewed following the brickbats in response to his complaint. And this is a shot of where a protruding stone got the better of him.

Rock on, Larry

Rock on, Larry

He has also been reservoir running since he was 16 and clarified that he was referring to only a specific danger area of the trail. He also admitted to the press that he was distracted while brisk-walking because he was CHATTING WITH A FRIEND. So now we know, it wasn’t ENTIRELY the ROCK’s fault after all!

The article ended with the following quote from the man himself:

I still love the challenge of the trail, the undulating terrain and the fresh air on my morning walks

 Steady as a rock, this Larry.


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