By Sue Quist
The overall construction of the Webber Natural Swimming Pool is complete, but at the time of this printing the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board has not announced an opening date for the new Webber Pool. Dawn Sommers, MPRB Director of Communications and Marketing said that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) plans to announce the opening date in early July. While all major construction will be completed by June 30, the MPRB still needs to put in additional plantings and “the pool’s unique water management systems needs to be fine-tuned before the pool can be open.” Sommers emphasized that the pool looks beautiful and appears ready for swimmers, but that MPRB wants to make sure everything is working as it should be so there are no issues once the pool opens.
Sommers noted that the Minneapolis Park Board is excited to be opening the first public natural filtration pool in North America, emphasizing that this is a living system and does not use any chemicals to treat the water. Instead the water is filtered much like a stream or lake. The 500,000 gallons of water in the 20,000 square foot pool circulate through the system approximately every 12 hours.
The plants in the regeneration basin play a key role in the filtration and at this time the MPRB is making sure the plants are well established before putting the additional pressure of up to 500 swimmers on the filtration system. Jon Duesman, Webber NSP Project Manager, remarked that plants that were lost during the winter are being replanted. Additionally plants are slated to go into the open water area of the regeneration basin. Prior to opening the German pool designer from Bionova will visit to determine how well the plants are established in regards to their ability to adequately filter the swimming water. MPRB is working to get him here by the end of June.
Part of the learning curve for a natural swimming pool involves the ongoing maintenance of the system. Duesman said the MPRB staff is doing an excellent job with the equipment they have. Some special equipment has been purchased, but they are experiencing challenges finding certain suitable cleaning devices, such as a mechanical robot vacuum. Bionova recommends the upper pool, lower pool and regeneration basin be tested separately in each water sample session. The pumps in the pool have been operating since May 5 and maintenance staff are on site at the pool seven days a week. They perform multiple tasks to maintain the quality of the swimming water. The frequency of some of the maintenance will depend on the time of year and the number of swimmers. In addition to filtering the water, the regeneration pond with its 7,000 native plants will serve as a habitat for frogs, turtles and other aquatic life.
Security is being addressed in a number of ways. There will be cameras on site 24 hours per day. The park board has hired additional outdoor recreational staff and park police. To insure that the opening will go smoothly the MPRB aquatics department has hired extra guards who will be available at the time of the opening. They are also working on scheduling and plan to offer lessons when the pool opens. During open swimming admission will be free and up to 500 people can swim at one time. There are plans for lap swimming, swim lessons and other programming at Webber Park. Final touches include fine tuning the filtration system, adding some benches and adding some special signage for the pool. To stay up to date on the new pool you can subscribe to get updates at minneapolisparks.org/park_care__improvements/park_projects/current_projects/webber_park_master_plan/