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.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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