Community Architecture

Warren Riverview Park in Derby

The Challenge

Previously, Warren Riverview Park was a public works yard and contaminated dump site. The site’s 12-foot bluff on the Arkansas River made access difficult for fishing, kayaking and limited the river view.

Other than being unsightly, waste from oil and street salt caused public health and safety considerations. The City of Derby participated in the Voluntary Cleanup and Property Redevelopment Program (VCPRP). The site was transformed by removal of the contaminated soil and terracing to open up views and access to the river.

The Process

Gathering a team

In 2016 WDM worked with the city of Derby to create Madison Avenue Central Park and started planning Warren Riverview Park.

As a completely unique park that required considerable planning and design, WDM engaged the community to understand their needs and goals for the space. Derby community members and Public Works Department staff came together as a a Park Advisory Committee that met with WDM. Over the course of several months, the group formulated ideas, received feedback from the community via social media, and continued to make revisions until coming to a final design. SWT Design from St. Louis was part of the concepting team.

“To do something special, like Warren Riverview Park, someone has to lead … and has to be able to take a vision and explain that vision to a community to build support for something special. It is all about quality of life: Do something special.” — Dan Wilson, Project Pincipal-in-Charge, WDM Architects

The Army Corp of Engineers controls the Arkansas River as a major waterway. So, plans that included the new water’s edge, site drainage and handling of floodwater had to be submitted and approved by the Corp. They are extremely interested in any project that improves safe, recreational, public access to rivers and lakes.


Monument sign: From sketch to reality

New Park and Event Venue

The completely unique park design fits this site and displays the natural beauty of the river corridor while providing a welcoming gateway to the city of Derby. WDM’s park design includes opportunities for many types of events, public and private. The open lawn area is large enough to accommodate a small scout jamboree. A terraced lawn and grand stair case leading down to the paved river promenade becomes a likely place for a riverside concert or for skipping stones and enjoy the sunsets. Kids can climb on the rope obstacle course or hunt for small creatures living in the bioswale or dry stream bed.


The Lodge

The Lodge has a place of prominence in the park with sweeping river views. Built in the rustic style of park lodges found in Yellowstone or Yosemite, it has heavy timber beams, slate-style roof, stacked stone columns, grand fireplace and lots of glass. The 1,400-square-foot hall seats up to 80 at tables or 90 theatre-style and has audio/visual capabilities. It’s the right size to host small events or conferences. All park guests can access the exterior restrooms.

Adventure playground

Located away from the water’s edge, the adventure playground is designed for kids 5-12.

“We wanted to create a space for older kids,” notes Robert Mendoza, Director of Public Works for the City of Derby. “Every other park in town caters to little kids, but those over 12 can enjoy these climbing structures.”

The playground is not flat, it has highly sculptured slopes that are perfect to roll down, slide down or race toy cars down. In the center of the playground is a 15’ tall climbing tower on a hill. The tower is surrounded by a network of spider-web-like cables, so kids can make a complete circuit around the course without ever touching the ground. Rubber belting positioned throughout the structure gives kids spots to stop and hang out with friends.

Around the perimeter of the cable-tower, realistic climbing boulders made of glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) have fossil-like stamps and hand-holds for climbing. A steep slope on the east edge of the playground is covered in artificial turf topped with a limestone ledge which is a great vantage point for parents to sit, visit and keep an eye on the kids.

Safety considerations for fall impact

Artificial turf over shock-absorbing foam padding and poured in-place, seamless rubber cover most of the floor of the playground. These are installed at different thicknesses for fall protection from various climbing heights. These durable surface coverings have the benefit of being virtually maintenance-free and are antimicrobial, antistatic, seamless and perforated for rain drainage. The turf’s pad base is made of 100% recycled styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) mixed with high-grade polyurethane; recycled content counts for up to 7 LEED points.

Additional Landscape Features

Additional Landscape features

Near the Lodge, a council ring with a fire pit can potentially be used for storytelling or educational gatherings.


Terracing addresses the fluctuating water levels and creates a natural amphitheater that can be used for a concert on the river. The river’s edge is designed to maintain its shape and construction against flood waters.

River landing

A river landing on the Arkansas River allows people to safe access to the water’s edge or serves as an informal stage for the amphitheater.


A series of steps down to the river landing provides an architectural contrast of crisp, pale gray lines of concrete with the natural undulation and warm colors of Kansas limestone on terrace edges. A compass rose adorns the top of the stairway to symbolize the adventurous spirit of Warren Riverview Park.

Boat launch

In order to further increase the accessibility of Warren Riverview Park to all users, a canoe/kayak launch has been included at the south end of the park. Visitors can carry their canoes to the river without passing through the lawns or play areas. The graduated, paved path functions well no matter the level of the river. This boat launch ties into the expansive network of canoe/kayak access points on the Arkansas River in the Wichita region.


34 different varieties of trees were planted — from common pines and oaks to more unusual kinds like bald cypress or tulip tree — provide an assortment of different heights, colors, flowers, shade and seasonal color. Similar to a botanical garden, visitors can learn how wide a range of trees grow in Kansas.


The stream corridor not only functions for stormwater runoff from the park and adjacent neighborhood, but serves as an educational and aesthetic amenity highlighting ecology in the park. Children of all ages explore, move rocks and water and get hands-on with the beautiful, natural surroundings.


The river’s edge is ADA-accessible by installing a footbridge over the streambed and paving the walkway that gradually descends to the cement river landing.

Compass Rose

The 115-pound aluminum insert is cast from 100% recycled metals, permanently bolted together and then embedded in concrete.

Measure of Success

When designing Warren Riverview Park, the city took “a total leap of faith,” says Mendoza. This was the first time Derby invited its citizens to engage with the Arkansas River.

“We wanted a place for people to come together,” comments Mendoza, “something for everyone.” He is proud of creating a park that includes an ADA-accessible pathway all the way down the slope to the river.

The view from the Lodge balcony is a popular spot for photography, with a long view up the river. “Its the most photographed part of the city,” notes Mendoza. He regularly gets photos sent to him with residents thanking him for the park.

When reflecting on their goals in creating both Warren Riverview Park and Madison Avenue Central Park, Mendoza says, “we hit the nail on the head.”

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Project Overview


The City of Derby, Kansas




5.4 acres


$2.7 million

Lodge building:

1,440 s.f.

Team Involved:

Architects and Landscape architect: WDM Architects P.A. Mechanical-Electrical-Structural Engineers: PEC Civil Engineer: Young & Assoc. Construction Contractor: Snodgrass & Sons Playground equipment: ATHCO Adventurescapes® Playground surfacing: ForeverLawn Wichita with Playground Grass™ and DuraPlay™ Compass Rose: Ironsmith

Warren Riverview Park Portfolio Project

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