Heroes

This public pool is completely chlorine-free. It's also the first of its kind in the U.S.

Yep, the water's green. That's exactly what makes it so awesome.

This public pool is completely chlorine-free. It's also the first of its kind in the U.S.

For a long time, there were only two ways to access a "naturally filtered" pool: live in Europe or open up your wallet.

A gorgeous natural swimming pool in Austria. Photo by Peter Thomas/Flickr.


Natural pools are miraculous, gorgeous creations that use plant life, rocks, and other biological filters to eliminate the need for cleansing chemicals.

They're clean, they're safe, and they're absolutely beautiful.

These natural pools have been big in Europe for a couple of decades now, with the first ones popping up in Austria and Germany in the 1980s. In the years since, they've seen a rapid increase in numbers. Today there are over 20,000 natural pools in Europe, including plenty open to the general public.

A naturally filtered pool at a hotel in the U.K. Photo by Matt Taylor/Flickr.

For those of us in the States, however, natural pools are much harder to come by.

Having any kind of pool built from scratch in your own backyard comes with a hefty price tag, and not a lot of homes in America come with a pre-built private, natural pool.

When it comes to public pools, there are lots of strict state-mandated regulations around the use of chemicals for bacteria, so natural pools just haven't been an option for most communities.

A private natural pool built for a homeowner in Maryland. Jealous? Photo by Maryland Pools/Flickr.

That's why most of us have been stuck wading in pale blue, chlorinated waters for as long as we can remember.

But that all changed recently — if you live in Minneapolis.

This summer, Minneapolis opened the first all-natural, chlorine-free public swimming pool in the U.S.

It's called the Webber natural pool, and the project has taken over four years and $6 million of funding, not to mention the numerous legal hurdles and construction delays. But it has finally come to fruition.


This is no dinky pond. Check out all the features the pool supports with natural filtration. All photos of Webber pool courtesy of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.

The pool opened in late July.

The swimming pool is on the left. That huge area on the right is filled with biological filters, plants, and gravel.

The Webber pool features a shallow end and a deep end — like any good pool — and it also features an even deeper jumping platform and lap swimming lanes. It holds over 500,000 gallons of water.

Every 12 hours, the entire half-million gallon pool slowly drains in and out of what's called a "regeneration basin" filled with over 7,000 different aquatic plants rooted in gravel and limestone. The plants consume some of the bacteria and nutrients — the ones you wouldn't want getting in your eyes — for growth, while the rest clings to the gravel.

Simple vacuums finish the job by keeping the actual pool surface clean, no chemicals required.


It's not just the cleaning mechanisms that make this natural pool so appealing. In a lot of ways, the Webber pool is more like a lake than a pool, with live turtles and frogs populating the water, along with some algae to keep the ecosystem strong. The pool is also surrounded by as much grass and greenery as possible.

All in the name of a truly natural experience.

The Webber pool is a great start, but we need more like it.

There are about 4,000-5,000 emergency room visits related to pool chemicals every year, with most of those being children and teens. There are also environmental concerns around the use and disposal of harsh pool chemicals.

"We have a responsibility to be good stewards of public land and public water. It's consistent with our mission," Jayne Miller, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board told Upworthy. Just a hunch, but maybe that attitude is why Minneapolis Parks and Rec has been rated the #1 parks system in the U.S. for the past three years by The Trust for Public Land.

"We have a responsibility to be good stewards of public land and public water. It's consistent with our mission."

As for why other communities haven't yet followed suit?

Miller said, "You do something new and innovative like this, there are risks. ... But we're getting a ton of coverage on this nationally, and a lot of people are paying attention. I suspect this will be the beginning of many more natural pools in the U.S."

With Minneapolis paving the way, hopefully we'll see more natural public pools springing up in the years to come.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.