British Columbia·Photos

Swimming pool converted to backyard wetland by Penticton woman

A woman from Penticton, B.C., has turned her swimming pool into a wetland in an attempt to save visiting tree frogs from taking a deadly chlorinated bath.

'Now it's a soup full of wonderful creatures,' says Alexis Friesen

A woman from Penticton, B.C., has turned her swimming pool into a wetland in an attempt to save visiting tree frogs from taking a deadly chlorinated bath.

"I went into the back one day to clean the pool and there was approximately 15 Pacific chorus frogs floating in the water. That's how I realized that I was a killer," said wildlife biologist Alexis Friesen with a laugh.

Amphibians breathe through their skin, and the chlorine in the pool water was killing the frogs.

When Friesen would hear the frogs from her bedroom window, she would run out into her backyard, regardless of what time it was, to scoop them out, rinse them off and save them.

Then one year she decided to leave the pool closed for the summer, draining it halfway and covering it with a tarp. Fresh water started accumulating on the tarp from snow and rain and the tree frogs started breeding there. 

Pacific chorus frog tadpoles started showing up on the tarp covering Alexis Friesen's pool, igniting her dream of creating a backyard pond. (Alexis Friesen )

"I had a plethora of tadpoles, aquatic insects came, bats, you name it, and thus the dream blossomed," said Friesen.

She decided to turn her pool into a pond and is now the caretaker of a thriving backyard wetland.

'A soup full of wonderful creatures'

To create the pond, Friesen put in river rocks, a liner and fresh water into her swimming pool. She also added 500 sandbags around its inner edges to create steps for curious creatures. 

Now Pacific chorus frogs, long-toed salamanders and dragonflies are just some of the creatures that have made her backyard pool their new home.

"It's a soup full of wonderful creatures."

Long-toed salamanders are among the creatures in Alexis Friesen's new backyard pond. (Alexis Friesen)

She's also getting all sorts of visitors.

"I've had one year a solitary sandpiper hang out for a few weeks, lots of songbirds that feast on the insects, bats. I get great blue herons that stop by. Everything. It's wonderful."

Mosquitos aren't a problem, she said, because the little ecosystem that's developed is full of enough predators to keep them at bay.

She's noticed this year's drought and dry weather has meant water in the pond is evaporating more quickly, but she said there's lots of shade provided by the aquatic vegetation she planted.

And her neighbours love it, she said.

"They've seen me run down the street in my pyjamas with a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth, and they're like, 'Oh Alexis sees something, what's out there?' So they're all used to me, and get me, and think it's a wonderful thing."

She doesn't miss her swimming pool, she said, and all her friends who used to come over for pool parties now sit with her on her backyard deck to listen to the melody of the Pacific chorus frogs.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled "Backyard wetland"