Bottle Tree Park

Text by Eugene Tan

The sister development of the now-expunged Bottle Tree Village at nearby Sembawang, Bottle Tree Park met a similar fate in August 2014 when new operators took over the property. The community-centric aspects of the park will perdure in the form of the Kampung Kampus, run by original tenant Ground-Up Initiative.

The park's bottle tree in 2013 (Photo credit: Eugene Tan)

Prawn & longkang fishing spots, RC car circuit, and vegetable farms: these are just some of the spaces one will find at Bottle Tree Park. Reinforcing this bucolic identity are architectural applications of wood: vernacular jali, attap roofs, timber decks and hardwood picnic benches. Nearer the main entrance, we find masonry and timber sluices built over gentle streams, adjacent to which bays of row covers protect flourishing vegetable and horticultural plots. Imported Australian flora such as Bottle Trees and Grasstrees add to the Park’s eclecticism – its sense of otherness becoming apparent when viewed with nearby condominiums and MRT tracks in the background.

Prawn pond at Bottle Tree Park

Ground-Up Initiative at Bottle Tree Park

Of note is the tenant Ground-Up Initiative (GUI), a volunteer non-profit community which offers programmes to connect people to the land, and promote environmental awareness. It uses its base at Bottle Tree Park as a vision of sustainability and holistic living, and through initiatives such as Balik Kampung, they hope to introduce a greater population to such philosophies.

Drain and wooden bridge at Bottle Tree Park

In October 18 2013, the site's lease ended and the Singapore Land Authority put the plot up for tender. Chinese company Fullshare Group put in a winning bid of $169,000 a month for the 7 ha piece of land, more than double the $68,000 the existing operator had bid. After several extensions to Bottle Tree Park's lease, it finally closed in August of 2014. With most tenants unable to come to an agreement on rent with the new operator, the only business to stay on would be the fishing pond operator.

The lakehouse at Bottle Tree Park

Directional signboard at Bottle Tree Park

It was announced in November 2014 that part of the former Bottle Tree Park would host a 26,000 sqm community learning campus run by original tenant GUI. Dubbed Kampung Kampus, it focuses on nurturing leaders through craftsmanship, urban farming, design thinking, heritage, and the arts. The aim, according to GUI, is to make communities here more more gracious, green, giving, grounded and grateful. The campus is expected to cost $6 million, to be ready by 2016. It will include farming plots, a padi field, camp grounds, an amphitheatre, a heritage centre, and a prototyping zone for people to design useful technologies such as solar lamps. Chong Pang Citizens' Consultative Committee is leasing the land for community use, and subletting it to GUI.

The remaining portion of the former Bottle Tree Park was renamed Orto (meaning 'garden' in Italian) , and opened in June 2015. Fullshare Leisure Group had spent $8 million on upgrading and took six months to revamp the park.