Kids swimming in the Swann Memorial Fountain — despite that it isn't actually allowed. Credit: Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

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Getting wet in Philly’s collection of public fountains is not allowed.

That’s evident as soon as you get near them. Most city fountains have multiple posted signs warning people not to enter, and especially not to swim or wade in the water. For the most part, according to a Parks & Rec spokesperson, taking a dip in is prohibited everywhere except lifeguard-protected pools.

But as usual in Philadelphia, the rules haven’t stopped people from doing whatever they want.

Ban? What ban?

Swann Memorial Fountain is a perfect example.

People swim pretty much constantly in Logan Square watering hole. Especially when it’s hot.

During the early July heat wave, local news showed tons of scenes of people splashing through Swann’s spouting waters. Newscasters did briefly mentioned it wasn’t really allowed, but no one shied away from the camera — and there were no consequences doled out. No wonder one Billy Penn reader was confused.

John, a Logan Square resident, took a dip in the Swann Memorial Fountain on Tuesday afternoon. When the mercury spikes, you’ll probably always find him there, he said, wading around with his 15-year-old pup, Lucky.

“It’s refreshing,” he said. “It’s lovely when it’s over 90 degrees. It’s a great place to swim.”

John said he’s never been kicked out of the fountain — in fact, he’s never seen the swimming ban enforced at all.

Another regular, Robert from Kingsessing, had no idea entering the fountain was prohibited. He takes his three children there all the time in their bathing suits.

“The kids picked it,” Robert said. “They like it.”

The Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Square does not allow swimmers. You wouldn’t know that looking at it. Credit: Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

A safety concern

Officials cite various reasons for the ban on fountain swimming.

Most of Philly’s historic public fountains are purely decorative — simply not designed to accommodate swimmers, said Center City District spokesperson JoAnn Loviglio, thus making them unsafe for that use.

Not even Collins Park at 17th and Chestnut allows wading, despite the fact that the fountain there has literal steps descending into its basin.

So where can you swim?

Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule.

Several public fountains in the city either double as spraygrounds or feature a dedicated one on site. Philadelphia, rejoice — at these locations, you are very much allowed to splash around:

All of these locations have been specifically designed for fun, “so people are permitted to walk, jump and play around the water jets,” CCD’s Loviglio said. At Sister Cities Park, there’s an additional wading pool just deep enough to get your feet wet.

Generally, per Parks & Rec, fountains with no basin are the ones designed for people to enter.

In addition to those public fountains, there’s an entire network of public playgrounds and recreation centers that incorporate spraygrounds. Here’s a handy map:

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Oh, and if you were worried about water quality, Loviglio confirmed that the Center City District tests the water at its public fountains at least twice every day.

But you still might want to avoid drinking the water. Just sayin’.

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...