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What do you get if you take a giant beer billboard, a bunch of construction barricades, and some heavy duty ratchet belts? If you’re not too worried about standard procedure, those ingredients combine to make a place to cool off on a hot sunny day.
Barrier pools are the latest water-filled contraption from the folks behind Philadelphia’s infamous dumpster pool.
Back in 2016, the dumpster pool made headlines across the country (and world). It also attracted the attention of city officials. “We are not screwing around, Philly,” wrote a spokesperson from L&I, warning people not to attempt copycatting the idea.
Over the past half-decade, the concept has become more mainstream. Though not exactly the same, shipping containers are now commonly used to make quick and easy swimming pools.
The dumpster wasn’t the main issue for the city, however. It was that the container had been filled with water from a fire hydrant, and the violation ended up getting the entire block banned from hosting parties for a year.
Any operation of a hydrant without a permit in Philly is illegal. It’s a safety thing, officials say; it can make fighting fires less effective, and can lead to water main breaks.
That doesn’t stop Philadelphians across the city from using hydrants as impromptu sprinklers.
It was once a sanctioned activity, with the Fire Department handing out special spouting caps so kids could cool down in the streets. Despite the program being ended, 2017 saw more than 650 unsanctioned hydrant openings, according to data from the Philadelphia Water Department.
That same summer, with their block party ban lifted, self-proclaimed “alternative swimming solutions” mastermind Justyn Myers and friends used garden hoses to fill a replacement for the dumpster. They spent days collecting plastic Jersey barriers to build a sidewalk pool instead.
This year, Myers is all about being mobile. Instead of a one-time event like in 2017, he’s hoping for multiple swimming parties, setting them up wherever he can find the materials.
Key to the idea is the 20-by-60-foot billboard that makes the base of the pool, which Myers owns. Originally obtained to create a slip-n-slide in the woods, far outside of Philadelphia, the large plastic sheet turned out better than anticipated when the Birds fan discovered it was Eagles-themed.
The rest of the set-up is easy. “There’s so much construction around Philly right now,” Myers said, that plastic barriers are found in almost any area of the city, just like hydrants.
What results from the effort is a pool large enough to hold a kayak. It’s also relatively deep, to the point where people can leap into it.
So far, no one has complained about the cohort building up their urban oases and breaking them back down, Myers said, and neighbors often join in. After they’re done, the rule is for all the barriers to be returned to their original locations, and someone brings giant trash bags, so swimmers can do a litter pick-up.
“We always leave the area looking nicer than we found it,” Myers said. “It’s like an alternative street cleaning program, with a little extra fun.”