By Scott Squires
Meet the new saviors of summer: Monte Large, Evan O’Neil and Jeff Kaplan. These guys have a plan that’s going to deliver Houston from July’s sweltering hell and coax you out of August’s air-conditioned purgatory.
Their plan? Houston’s very own swimming hole. But this isn’t a regular old municipal swimming pool with sticky-faced kids and rogue band-aids floating around. The Houston Needs a Swimming Hole project is vying for a natural-style swimming hole in the middle of the city complete with grassy grounds and a sandy beach.
Though the plan is in its infancy, these three are running a Kickstarter to fund a feasibility study that will answer the big questions: How? Where? When? and How Much?
I spoke with Monte Large about the project and their plan to transform a section of the city into an urban paradise.
“I was living in New York City when the Highline first opened, and I was completely blown away by that” Large said, referencing NYC’s raised urban park. “You can do something that can completely change the city! There need to be places for you to breathe and to relax.”
The pool itself would be about three acres — about the size of Austin’s Barton Springs — with surrounding grounds that would incorporate around nine acres total (depending on the location).
“We’ve started talking to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Friends of Woodland Park, and any organization that potentially has land that could be converted into a central pool type thing,” Large said. “Improvements along Buffalo Bayou from Sabine St. to Shepard really inspired us to think, ‘Hey, you can do some really beautiful things along the bayou!’”
Unlike a swimming pool treated with chlorine and other chemistry, a natural swimming pool filters its water through a biological regeneration zone. With the help of a pump to move the water, sweat, grime and oil can all be filtered out through friction with water-borne plants and sediments.
“Another option we’re looking at is an ozone filter,” Large said. “You basically shock the water and kill all the bacteria, but instead of killing it with chemicals, you’re killing it with Ozone and UV rays.”
According to Large, the natural filtration system would be more than enough to ensure clear, refreshing water, but if someone decided to pull a “Caddyshack” and deposit a “Baby Ruth” in the pool, emergency procedures would still have to be implemented. “That’s something we’ve thought about! We’d probably have to do the same thing as a standard swimming pool.”
Because of the constantly moving water, the pool would naturally discourage breeding mosquitoes.
“We’ve got that going for us,” he said. “We’re also looking at planting mosquito repellent plants like lemongrass and citronella, and making sure it’s a very airy, breezy place. Mosquitoes don’t do well when there’s a lot of moving air, so we’re going to do our best.”
The budget and timeframe for the project are yet to be determined, but could run anywhere from $6 million to $20 million, depending on the site and the technology used.
“We’ll be able to determine that once we’re finished with the whole feasibility study,” he said. The natural swimming hole would be pitched as an amenity to the city, and the project hopes to collaborate with organizations like the Buffalo Bayou Partnership to garner private funding. “We’re looking at how [NYC’s] Highline and our own Discovery Green were put together. We just want to see it happen,” Large said.
Nominal admission fees and season passes would cover the swimming hole’s operating and maintenance costs.
“It won’t be much,” Large said. “But we want to have this thing maintained in a way that’s nice, where people go in five or ten years and still think it’s just the greatest place. We want to encourage people who go there to respect it.”
With less than thirty days left to raise funds for the feasibility study, the Houston Needs a Swimming Hole project has already raised over $23,000 of its $30,000 goal. “We’re getting there, and we’ve gotten so much great feedback!”
For the conspiracy theorists out there, Large assured FPH he’s not a mad-scientist with a plan to fluoridate Houston’s water supply.
“We’re trying to poison people with natural shit!” he said. “Houston is known for being such a ‘chemical’ city with chemical engineers and people in the oil business. But we’re weirdos! We’re a bunch of hippie dudes with real estate backgrounds and our own businesses, so we know how Houstonians think. We’re not just hippies — we’re hippies with a plan!”
Donate to Houston Needs a Swimming Hole here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2060807929/houston-needs-a-swimming-hole
More info at: www.houstonneedsaswimminghole.com