By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The first public natural swimming pool in North America is just two weeks away from opening.

It’s been a 10-year process to turn Webber pool in north Minneapolis into a natural filtration pool. The new pool features an area for children, diving and lap swim.

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“Just about any time you drive by in daylight hours you’re going to see someone out here working keeping this thing clean and getting it ready to go,” said Commissioner Jon Olson.

Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board crews have been working long hours trying to get Webber pool ready to be introduced to the public. The pool is actually a living system, and functions like a stream, lake or wetland.

“It’s innovative. It’s part of what keeps our park system the number one park system in the United States,” said Minneapolis park and recreation superintendent Jayne Miller. “It’s better for the environment, and the community, because we are not using any chemicals.”.

That’s right — no chemicals. The pool is cleaned with a complex piping filtration system, using plants and water. The regeneration basin has more than 7,000 aquatic plants rooted in layers of limestone and granite.

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“This is a 500,000 gallon pool, and every 12 hours all 500,000 gallons of water get filtered through our biological filters, and then through our gravel and plant material, and brought back into the pool,” Miller said.

In addition to the plants, the pool has to be cleaned. Right now, the robotic system used to clean it doesn’t work, so while new equipment is being made, crews do it by hand — 16 hours a day.

That’s the big reason the pool won’t open until July 24. When it does, it will only be open on weekends, through Labor Day.

The pool cost $6 million to build, and can hold up to 500 people. There will be certified lifeguards on duty and it costs nothing to get in.

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During the winter, the pool will be used for ice skating, fully equipped with a warming house and fireplace.

Reg Chapman