A new park commemorating an important early leader in Calgary’s LGBTQ2S+ community opened in the Beltline Wednesday.
Lois Szabo Commons, located at 936 16 Ave. S.W., is named after one of the founders of Calgary’s first gay club, Club Carousel, which opened in 1970.
Szabo publically signed the club’s incorporation papers at a time when few others dared to take such a risk and volunteered her time there, organizing social events that acted as a beacon for connection and social change.
Szabo told the crowd at the opening ceremony the park is a victory for the city’s LGBTQ2S+ community.
“We have overcome many obstacles and are now very much part of the mosaic of Calgary.
“Today’s dedication is a wonderful milestone and a huge step forward for LGBTQ rights.”
Szabo said while human rights have come a long way, complacency is not an option.
“For a long time, LGBTQ2 people have been raised with fear, shame, living their lives in hiding and afraid of being their true selves. Club Carousel was their safe haven and mine,” she said.
“Homophobia exists everywhere and we continue to be vulnerable to the various political policies and religious doctrines.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi praised Szabo, saying she fits the bill when it comes to naming city spaces after community builders and local heroes.
“She was courageous during a time when many didn’t accept LGBTQ2S+. Lois created a safe space for community and for political activism that would shape the Calgary we are today.”
The park was built with community feedback in mind and includes a curved space for gatherings or performances, lots of seating options and a concrete ping pong table.
The design also features an open layout and lighting that focuses on ambiance but creates a high level of visibility and safety throughout the site into the evening.