Birkirkara public garden in Mriehel in a shambles

The Gnien il-Haddiem” public garden in Mriehel, Birkirkara on its inauguration day in May, 2019.

Shared social media posts on Facebook, as well as on Google Maps’ photos, have highlighted the dismal state of affairs and of plain utter abandonment that the “Gnien il-Haddiem” public garden in Mriehel, Birkirkara has been left in. Broken lights and gates are just the prima facie indicators of the overall state of malaise the public area for recreation had been left in, but even general garbage pick-up and cleansing of the area leave much to be desired as well.

The Mriehel public garden had been inaugurated with much pomp and fanfare way back on May 10th, 2019 by the then Minister Dr Chris Cardona. The news press reports at the time claimed that the area was in an abandoned state, or “they rather should have written that it was a yet-undeveloped tract of soil straddling the old 17-century Wignacourt Aquaduct which lies buried along this stretch of its length as it cuts eastwards from Rabat to Valletta,” one local nearby resident pointed out to TheIsland.mt.

The garden’s name, “Gnien il-Haddiem” (Worker’s Garden), was supposedly attributed to the claim that ‘every week, hundreds of workers go through it daily’, and it was hence financed by the nearby Central Business District (CBD) of Mriehel, just across the main thoroughfare of Mdina Road.

In fact, Trident Estates plc (developers of the old Farsons Brewery site into ‘Trident Park’, an office and commercial centre) had contributed some €363,000 for the regeneration of the stretch of derelict land, practically opposite its site on Mdina Road. It was stated in June 2019, that the contribution was part of the planning gain that Trident Estates plc had to pay to the CBD in conjunction with the Trident Park development permit.

Although the garden’s design is nothing to write a postcard back to home about, it incorporates conventional uninteresting concrete-paved pathways for walking, along with a dogs’ area, an all-ages’ outdoor gym and wooden-fence enclosed playground area for children to play at, in an ‘improved secure manner’.

The Birkirkara Mayor, Joanne Debono Grech, had remarked in her address during the garden’s inauguration that the local council had willingly accepted this garden’s project, given that it was bound to be enjoyed by all, especially ‘nearby industrial workers and local residents’, particularly the latter who did not always look so favourably on the neighbouring industrial zone.

The garden’s inauguration’s plastic backed engraved plate, which set back the B’kara. local council a mere €148.68, according to its published accounts.

From his part, Minister Cardona went on to explain how public gardens in urban communities like that of Birkirkara, provide recreational areas, community development and help people cope during the summer’s heat. He added in today’s modern daily life, open spaces where families can spend the time together, are becoming more popular. Cardona also made emphasis that when one invests in the environment, that is also investing in people.

Money wasted?

As the social-media posted shared photos show, there are many serious concerns, especially from local residents like parents of children who play in the public garden, whether this space’s regeneration was just a waste of money or a plain cash barter for a building permit affair.

The garden is 6,000 square metres in size, so not really anywhere near the size of Manhatten’s Central Park in New York! Some 15 indigenous trees were planted to complement the existing landscape. The Mriehel public garden is administered by the Birkirkara Local Council for its day-to-day upkeep. The Trident Estates plc had hoped that its investment would lead to a marked improvement of the area, since the old Farsons’ brewery heritage site’s conversion into an international Grade A green office campus was specifically designed with environmentally sustainability and employees wellness in mind.

However, the lacking maintenance and upkeep of the public garden goes obtusely opposite to these publicly stated intents, which Mayor Debono Grech’s local council administration is responsible for and must answer for as well.

In the meantime, those still frequenting the garden do so with wariness, especially parents with young children as safety-and-security gates remain broken, litter of all sorts is uncollected and walkway garden-lighting lies overturned with exposed and cut electrical wires.