NParks looks to end use of chalk and flour for 'hash' runs

Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 20 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) is looking into prohibiting the use of any white substances for "hash" runs.

This comes after the Woodleigh MRT station security scare, where a suspicious white substance - which turned out to be baking flour - was left behind by a local running group to mark their trail.

Channel NewsAsia understands that NParks and the running groups are also looking into alternative markings such as ice cream sticks or plastic markers.

The Seletar Hash House Harriers, who were behind the "suspicious white substance" at Woodleigh MRT station, have apologised for the alarm and inconvenience caused.

The group said that three of their members were marking a trail near the station for a run using flour.

They chose the MRT underpass from Bidadari to Woodleigh Close as it was the safest route to cross Upper Serangoon Road.

NParks said it is currently working with these hash running groups to reduce the use of baking flour.

“Where 'hash runs' are allowed in NParks-managed areas, chalk and flour are prohibited as these substances are more difficult to clean up (and) might seep into and cause damage to the environment,” said NParks group director for conservation Wong Tuan Wah in a statement. “If consumed, these substances might have detrimental effect on wildlife.”

“Only toilet or tissue paper is allowed to be used as markings and they must be cleaned up immediately after the event. If they are not cleaned up, enforcement action could be taken,” added Mr Wong.

Under the Parks and Tree Act, members of the public who litter in Singapore parks and nature reserves may be fined up to S$5,000.

STREAMLINE RESPONSE PROCEDURES: ANALYST

On Tuesday, the baking flour incident triggered the closure of the MRT station for three hours. Another security scare involving an unattended bag at Hougang MRT station earlier this month caused the station to temporarily close.

One security expert said that authorities could look into streamlining their procedures to minimise the disruption to commuters.

"What they could have done maybe is determine first if it was bio-hazardous and if it's not, while investigations are still going on, they could just cordon off the area but ensure you resume some form of service to the MRT line,” said Nur Diyanah Anwar, a security expert from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

“I think three hours is disruptive on any measure and I think once they have ironed out the procedure that they should take, it should be shorter."

- CNA/nc


NParks working with 'hash' runners to reduce practice of marking out running routes
Lydia Lam, The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Apr 17;

The National Parks Board (NParks) said it has been working with Hash House Harriers to reduce the practice of marking out running routes, after a "hashing" group left flour at Woodleigh MRT Station on Tuesday (April 18) and sparked a security scare.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Mr Wong Tuan Wah, group director of conservation at NParks, said NParks has been working with Hash House Harriers to "reduce the need of using markers when they run in NParks-managed areas".

ST understands that this is not in reaction to Tuesday's incident, but instead is part of ongoing discussions.

Advance runners from Hash House Harriers groups mark out a trail using flour, chalk or toilet paper so that the runners after them can pick up the "clues" and follow the route.

Read Also: Man uses flour to mark out hashing trail at Woodleigh MRT: What exactly is hashing?

One man was arrested and two others are assisting with police investigations after flour left at various parts of Woodleigh MRT Station on Tuesday (April 18) led to the station being closed for more than three hours and police and Singapore Civil Defence Officers being deployed.

"NParks regularly meets up with Hash House Harriers (HHH) to advise on the rules regarding 'hash' running in our managed areas," said Mr Wong on Thursday.

He added that chalk and flour are prohibited in NParks-managed areas as the substances "are more difficult to clean up, might seep into and cause damage to the environment".

If consumed, these substances might also have detrimental effects on wildlife.

Read Also: Running group apologises for Woodleigh station incident, says should have used signs

"Only toilet or tissue paper are allowed to be used as markings, and they must be cleaned up immediately after the event," he said.

"If they are not cleaned up, enforcement action could be taken."

Under the Parks and Tree Act, those who litter in parks and nature reserves can be fined up to $5,000.

Mr Ken Ong, chairman of the Hash House Harriers, Singapore, told ST that using toilet paper to mark trails within NParks areas was an agreement reached between NParks and the hashing community.

"The condition imposed is that we will have to remove all traces of the paper latest by noon the next day," he said.

"Usually, we have one of the members setting the trail pick up all the paper as soon as the last runner has gone by, within the very same day."

When asked about Tuesday's incident, where runners from the Seletar Hash House Harriers sprinkled flour at Woodleigh MRT Station, Mr Ong said: "Those men from Tuesday Hash were setting a trail for their fellow members, marking it with flour."

He added that his group, which runs on Mondays, "almost always set our runs in non-urban areas, thereby avoiding sensitive locations like MRT stations and such".

In a statement issued on Wednesday (April 19), the Seletar Hash House Harriers apologised to the public and authorities for the alarm and inconvenience caused.

They explained that three of its members had chosen to use the MRT underpass for members to go from Bidadari towards Woodleigh Close "as this provided the safest route to cross Upper Serangoon Road".


Man uses flour to mark out hashing trail at Woodleigh MRT: What exactly is hashing?
Lam Min Lee AsiaOne 19 Apr 17;

A 69-year-old man was arrested for leaving behind a suspicious white substance at Woodleigh MRT station, causing it to be closed for security checks on Tuesday (April 18).

He had placed flour in the station to mark a trail for other members in his running club called Seletar Hash House Harriers, which organises hash runs in Singapore every Tuesday evening.

The incident also cast the spotlight on the outdoor activity. So, what exactly is 'hashing'?

1. It is an activity that combines cross country running and treasure hunt

Hashing was created by a group of British expatriates in Malaysia in 1938, and fashioned after an outdoor racing game called 'hares and hounds'.

In the game, a 'hare' lays a trail using toilet paper, flour, or chalk for a pack of 'hounds', who figure out the clues and aim to catch the 'hare' before it reaches the end of the trail.

A hash run is typically held over an hour or so.

Singapore Hash House Harriers

2. There's an element of surprise in hashing

The temporary markings used in the trail may disappear over time, which makes the game challenging.

A 'hare' may throw the 'hounds' off its track with false trails, short cuts, and dead ends. These are designed to keep the pack of 'hounds' together regardless of their fitness levels or running speeds.

Participants also often find themselves going on runs in places ranging from the jungle to the city.

Hash Running 2015 - 2016

3. Runners have been hashing in Singapore for decades

There are about 10 such running clubs in the country, with Hash House Harriers Singapore, which was founded in 1962, claiming to be 'father hash' that spawned the rest.

Monday Hash House Harriers Singapore @ Bukit Brown #1

4. Hashing has inspired several spin-offs

There's bike hashing for those who prefer to travel around the island on their mountain bicycles, while canine lovers have created 'Dash' where runners can bring their dogs along for the hash run.

5. Hashing is a social activity

These groups often describe themselves as 'drinking clubs with a running problem'. Hashers often wind down from their runs in a 'circle' where they socialize, sing drinking songs and enjoy some drinks (usually beer) and food.

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