by Janice Heng
After a gruelling training session, kayaker Raine Chian, 25, used to have to head home without a shower.
At the time, MacRitchie Reservoir Park, where she kayaks four times a week, was devoid of shower facilities. It did have a toilet block but it was old and dingy.
However, the days of uncomfortable bus rides are over for Ms Chian. The park has opened a new amenities centre complete with 23 showers.
Fourteen of these are trendy open-air showers, lacking cubicle walls. Pull a large metal ring and water rains down from an overhead sprinkler.
Kayaker Carina Teo, 22, who found the indoor showers cramped, says: 'I find the outdoor ones pretty interesting. I think I'll use them the next time.'
The new amenities centre is part of an overall revamp for Singapore's oldest reservoir, formed in 1867, taking place under the Public Utilities Board's (PUB) Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme. A completion ceremony for the $12-million Phase 1 was held last Saturday.
Visitors used to enter via a drab, grey carpark. Now they are welcomed by palm trees, a landscaped pond and boardwalk, and even a row of bubbling fountains.
Mr Yap Kheng Guan, director of the PUB's 3P network department, reveals that no pumps are used for the reservoir-fed fountains - just pipes and water pressure from differing water levels.
'It's very nice, very open,' said Mr K.S. Yong, 69, who was enjoying a break at the amenities centre's food-and-beverage kiosk with a dozen old schoolmates.
The group of retirees and semi-retirees visits MacRitchie once a week. All are impressed by the revamp but hope that parking will remain free at the new two-storey carpark, open since late May.
The carpark's 310 parking spaces mean 110 more lots are available. Access has also improved, as drivers heading west along Lornie Road can now turn directly into the park instead of having to make a U-turn.
Reservoir Road, which used to be clogged with traffic and parked cars, has become serene and pedestrian-friendly.
Visitors can also enjoy an uninterrupted stroll along the reservoir's edge. The path along the top of the dam, long closed to the public, is now open.
Meanwhile, kayakers enjoy a larger launch pontoon, which can take six kayaks at once compared to just one before.
'It's more extensive,' says Mr Sidney Wong, 23, who kayaks twice a week.
He, too, welcomes the replacement of the former single-block toilets: 'The new one is much better for those doing water sports and joggers, since they can have a shower.'
Previously, he could rinse off only at a public tap.
Work on the revamp's second and final phase starts in the fourth quarter of this year and is set to end in mid-2011. Focusing on the area west of the entrance, it involves landscaping, an improved food-and-beverage outlet and upgrading MacRitchie's iconic bandstand.
Even as the park is spruced up, care is taken to retain its heritage. Photographs from the reservoir's past are on show and the PUB is asking the public to send in more to add to the display.
Admiring both past and present was exhibition visitor 50-year-old Mr Shaw, who did not want to give his full name. Of the amenities centre where the exhibition is held, he says: 'It's something new, something for the family.'
E-mail photographs to email@example.com or send them by post or personally. Closing date is Sept30. Call 6733-6753 for address details.
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