by Eric McGarity
The City of Brotherly Love, with its 70 outdoor public pools, has some cool new updates hitting the public pool scene this summer. After the enormous success of last year’s Francisville Pop-Up Pool Project, thanks to help of the Knight Foundation, a North Philly public pool was decked out with palm trees, wooden chaise lounges, umbrellas, and other retro décor. The Parks and Recreation Department is now expanding the project to four additional public pools across the city this summer.
Markward Playground in South Philly, Pleasant Playground in Mt. Airy, Lee Cultural Center in West Philly and Lawncrest Recreation Center in Northeast Philly will all receive lux upgrades for their public pools this summer, in addition to cool new programs, such as poolside yoga, aqua Zumba, and water aerobics. Francisville Playground’s pool will also be spruced up like last summer. As part of a new city initiative called Swim Philly, the goal of this endeavor is to make Philadelphia citizens more aware of the free amenities in their communities from Parks and Rec and to make public pools a destination for city-goers of all demographics.
In an article for PlanPhilly, Lisa Whittle, aquatics program coordinator of Parks and Recreation said, “we wanted to pick places that were diverse and we wanted to see if these improvements would bring people from other parts of the city as a destination.”
She said last years pilot run was visited by many first-time public pool-goers.
With help from urban design firm Sikora Wells Appel, the aim of the project was to use low-cost upgrades in order to create a fun, oasis-like atmosphere using our city’s pre-existing assets. This concept, known as tactical urbanism, has enjoyed quite the renaissance in Philadelphia recently, from our city’s parklets (parking space-sized pop-up parks), to the large support to transform the Reading Viaduct into a high-rise public park, a la New York’s Highline Park.
As the major city with the highest number of public pools per resident, one per every 22,000 Philadelphians, Swim Philly is proof that Philadelphia’s network of parks, recreation centers, and playgrounds has enough variety to keep you cool all summer long.