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Family Christian Centre withdraws proposal for land development

PHOTO. A "Save the Chess Park" sign hangs at the entrance of the Jina Burn Chess Park on July 2, 2019. MYMCMURRAY/Phil Wood

The Jina Burn Memorial Chess Park has been saved.

The Family Christian Centre said Thursday it would withdraw its request to purchase the park for development after the Fort McMurray Chess Club and many residents in Dickinsfield had a negative reaction to the idea.

The Centre proposed an area where parents could drop-off and pick up their kids who attend neighbouring schools.

It has requested that the Municipality engage with residents and stakeholders to find a solution for the traffic congestion.

Fort McMurray Chess Club president Magda Marais said developing the park isn’t the answer.

“To maintain the park as it is what Dickinsfield residents really [want], without adding a lot more activities that will bring even more traffic. The traffic is the problem.”

This was not the first time the chess club fought against development on the land.

Marais cited a case in 2014 during the expansion of the church facility.

At that time, Jina Burn encouraged residents to petition and attend council meetings to combat urban sprawling.


An argument for development is the land’s current minimal use by community groups.

Marais said that argument isn’t relevant as the park is more than just land.

“Jina put that dark knight up in the park; it is her favourite chess piece. For it to be removed, paved over, and placed at a different site after her ashes were scattered at the park [goes against] her wishes [from] her celebration of life [ceremony].” 

When Jina Burn passed away in late 2018, the Municipality dedicated the park in her memory.

While the club could meet anywhere, Marais said they feel a strong connection to the parkland.

“This comes from a community of people, who are just wanting to play chess and have reverence for somebody who was big in chess and made a huge change.”

Community advocate Jina Burn, along with Marais and others, founded the Chess Club in 2012.

Burn used her platform to advocate for children’s health and for Fort McMurray.

Fort McMurray hosted the Provincial Youth Chess Championship in 2018.

The club still meets at the Dickinsfield park every Thursday evening.