MANY nature lovers have decried the hill-cutting and development taking place on what is now called Bukit Kerinchi.
Some hikers have posted on Facebook their dissatisfaction, lamenting the construction of new features including a large concrete-and-steel suspension bridge and wooden walkways amid the landscaped area in the 52ha Bukit Kerinchi Forest Park that is taking shape.
A check by StarMetro in March and earlier this month, showed a vast difference from the earlier construction efforts reported in mid-2014.
The park has been landscaped to include water features and gazebos as well as “stepped” trails made from concrete boxes that lead into the park’s Denai Trail.
Other features include concrete bases with wooden planks, set inside a camping area and another section set aside for picnicking, with lamp posts installed.
The landscaped section of Kerinchi Park cuts through part of the original hill trail, where hikers can continue through secondary forest cover and emerge overlooking the Federal Highway.
“We cannot really say we are in favour of the hill park,” said non-governmental organisation Friends of Bukit Gasing’s (FoBG) chairman Datuk Dr Lim Thuan Seng.
He elaborated, “It is a good concept in theory but when you think about our weather, where it gets so hot at times, that open-space parks aren’t really suitable for camping or picnicking.
“As this is one of the last secondary forests in the city, perhaps a better way would have been to introduce people to nature, beyond just preparing camping spaces; leave the forest as it is and cut trails for people to follow.”
Conversely, some hikers such as Section 5 resident Paul Lim said if the place was well lit at night, it could help with safety.
And for busy urbanites who could not jog or go outdoors during the day, lighted paths in the evening were a viable alternative, he added.
Another issue is the border demarcation in the forest between Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur. Regular visitors are urging the authorities to clear away just enough undergrowth to mark out the boundary between the two local governments’ jurisdiction, instead of the current stretch of concrete and green wire, which is broken in places.
“Often, we get calls or enquiries from residents in Section 5 or frequent hikers about development which is supposed to be taking place on our side.
“Actually, that would be over on the Kuala Lumpur side,” said Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) Health and Environment Director Dr Chitradevi N. Vadivellu.
Proper border demarcation would probably take place only next year, she said.
As one of central Klang Valley’s few urban green lungs and a popular hiking trail, Bukit Gasing on the Petaling Jaya side regularly needs maintenance.
This ranges from rebuilding or maintaining benches and huts along the trail, which offer joggers and trekkers some rest-stops, to replacing the signage in the area.
The meandering routes through the hill, as this writer discovered when he entered the hill park for the first time, means that you have to depend on the guidance of regular hikers who know the area well enough to point the right way to the main road of Jalan Tanjung 5/4.
The signage situation was highlighted three years ago and today, that hasn’t changed much.
When asked about the lack of signage on Bukit Gasing trails, regular visitors such as Lawrence Lo and Thuan Seng said there had been signboards in the past.
“We had signs to guide visitors around the hill area but they had been vandalised and torn down, so it is better to follow one of the regulars if you are new to the area,” said Lo.
Thuan Seng concurred, saying the group had reported the vandalisation to MBPJ as hill maintenance fell under the council’s purview.
“We would like to appeal to the hikers who visit the hill to please protect the environment and not spoil the enjoyment for others,” said Thuan Seng.
Additionally, he said, the group was in the midst of mapping out eroded portions across the Petaling Jaya side of the hill and would soon present it to the city council for approval.
The NGO, which consults on and off with both MBPJ and Kuala Lumpur City Hall, occasionally takes temporary proactive measures for soil erosion such as laying tarpaulin to cover the exposed area, before reporting to the council.
Curiously, maintenance of Bukit Gasing does not fall under MBPJ’s Landscaping Department, but rather the Health and Environment Department.
According to Dr Chitradevi, maintenance and improvement works are currently on a piecemeal, as-needed basis.
In the meantime, the council is working on other aspects to improve the place, such as repairing the signage and benches.
“We have a budget of RM190,000 for Gasing Hill. For the signage, we have appointed a contractor and repairs are being carried out, but we do not have a specific budget,” said Dr Chitradevi.