Times of Malta, 20 March 2009 –

Hunting is likely to be banned at the Majjistral Park as measures are taken to turn the area into a natural recreation area.

Although a decision has yet to be taken, the chairman of the board managing the park, Ian Castaldi Paris, said he expected hunting to be banned.

The move would form part of plans to overhaul the area. The board also intends to block access to vehicles and set up picnic areas for families.

The park, which was at the centre of a heated controversy when it was proposed as a golf course in 2005, straddles a significant tract of land in the north west of the island, lying between Golden Bay and Anchor Bay, in the limits of Mellieħa.

The park was entrusted to three NGOs, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Nature Trust and the Gaia Foundation, whose representatives sit on the board chaired by Dr Castaldi Paris, nominated by the government.

Dr Castaldi Paris said the board would hold its first onsite visit tomorrow. By Easter, they planned to implement an electronic gate system in four access points, limiting cars in the park to those belonging to staff.

Discussions are under way to introduce a shuttle service using electric cars from the car park to different spots in the recreational area, he said.

One common access point will be set up to monitor who enters and exits the park and people can choose to join a guided tour or explore the place alone. The system is expected to start functioning by June and entrance will be free of charge.

The management plan of the park is expected to be handed over to the planning authority by the end of March.

Most of the area is classified as a Special Area of Conservation as part of Malta’s coastal cliffs, which form part of the Natura 2000 site.

Besides the area’s natural beauty, the park features historical structures such as corbel huts, which are usually found in the north. The huts are usually made of stone and are projected from a wall to support an arch. Majjistral also hosts a vast array of endemic plants, some of which are unique to the area.

As a result of many years of neglect and mismanagement, the eco system and the state of the park suffered due to illegal dumping, land clearing, bird trapping, trampling and off-road sports.

A thorough clean-up of the park is under way, concentrating especially on Ix-Xagħra l-Ħamra where some contractors were commissioned to clear an area formerly used as a makeshift landfill.

The board is collaborating with the tourism authority to upgrade the beach amenities and services at Golden Bay and aims to reach Blue Flag status in the next couple of seasons.

A state-of-the-art security system with CCTV cameras will monitor sensitive areas and night patrols by security companies have started in response to vandal attacks.