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Major new Costa park opens at last, even though it's unfinished

A cyclist discovers Parque Benítez on the first day of opening.
A cyclist discovers Parque Benítez on the first day of opening. / Fernando González
  • Parque Benítez, on the site of an army barracks, can now be visited, although a five-million-euro improvement scheme is on hold while the Junta approves the plans

As of last weekend, residents of Malaga and nearby towns, plus millions of visitors a year to the area, can now enjoy a large new park near the city’s airport.

Parque Benítez is located on the city’s border with Torremolinos and covers 29 hectares, around a quarter bigger than London’s St James’ Park.

The landscaped parkland that is home to a large number of 90-year-old pine trees was formerly the grounds of the Benítez army barracks, in use until 1995 and now demolished. Malaga city council had been campaigning since then for the land to be opened up for public use.

In 2013 the city finally gained control of the site and drew up plans to install all the necessary facilities to convert it into a major new draw for visitors and locals.

However, work started then came to a halt when the five-million-euro investment plan failed to receive the go-ahead by the Junta de Andalucía’s environmental officials.

Local politicians ‘open’ the park last week.

Local politicians ‘open’ the park last week. / F. G.

The council disagrees with requirements the Junta is imposing, including improvements to storm drainage in a stream bed, which, the council says, never normally floods. In addition, work on an ornamental lake has been controversially stopped amid fears that it would attract too many birds and disrupt air traffic at the nearby airport.

Faced with not knowing when the landscaping plans will be approved, mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre, has decided to open up the space to the public in the meantime, so “it is put to use and enjoyed” by local people. “We don’t know how many years the bureaucratic process for the plan could take, so we have decided to go for this quick fix of getting it ready,” explained De la Torre.

Currently, the space, which will be open 24 hours a day, has just one entrance and a temporary car park. It lacks lighting, toilets, drinking fountains and a barbecue zone. Barbecues are banned in the meantime, as is camping, but some rubbish bins and picnic tables have been put in place.

Local residents began visiting the park last Friday after politicians, including the mayor and the president of the Diputación provincial authority, Elías Bendodo, had declared it open. First to enter was María del Pilar, a retired teacher from the Los Álamos district next door. “It’s nice, but Ithought that the council was going to transform it more, do more things,”she said, somewhat disappointedly.

The current car park, and only way in, is reached off the same roundabout next to the entrance road to IKEA, just off either the A-7 or MA-21 motorways.