Once Derby’s Warren Riverview Park opened, it provided a new outlet for activity. The Derby Recreation Commission is now set to take full advantage of that outlet by hosting its first ever kayaking excursion down the park-adjacent Arkansas River on Sept. 12.

“When the city was still in the process of building Warren Riverview Park, we went on a tour of that facility and discussed with them the opportunity of programming in that park,” said DRC Director of Programs Vanessa Buehne. “It was really out of that conversation that we started brainstorming ideas of how to program Warren Riverview and that’s when we thought of the idea to have a kayak event.”

DRC Program Coordinator Ashlynn Godown took that torch from Buehne when she started last fall and pushed forward to make those kayaking plans a reality.

Having connections with members of the Arkansas River Coalition — which regularly organizes floats — Godown touched base with that group over the summer and started planning the DRC kayaking trip.

Participants will meet at Warren Riverview Park Sept. 12 and be bused to the Wichita Wastewater Treatment plant, where the 4.5 mile kayaking trip will start. A picnic will be held in Warren Riverview Park at the end of the trip.

Godown noted four coalition members will be present on the trip and they will make 15 kayaks available (covered in the $35 registration cost) — though individuals are welcome to bring their own kayaks. The event will be capped at 25 people and is open to anyone 13 years of age and older, with Godown noting it will be extremely accessible for any first-time kayakers.

“This would be a really good beginner kayaking trip, so to speak, or if you have your own kayaks you’re more than welcome to bring those,” Godown said. “It’s really just for anybody; (we’re) trying to draw in families definitely.”

Registration will be open starting Aug. 3 through Sept. 10 and interested parties can sign up in person at the DRC or online at derbyrec.com.

For now, the kayaking trip is intended to be a one-off event, but depending on turnout it is a program Godown wants to continue and expand upon in the future.

“It’s definitely one that I would like to keep around,” Godown said. “Since we went on our little DRC trip to test it out, I just want to see kind of how it goes with a larger crowd of people who’ve never kayaked before.”

While the coalition only recommends kayaking on the river in the fall, Godown suggested the DRC may look to host two kayaking events annually in the future (in the late summer and fall).

Due to some of the physical requirements of dragging the kayaks the age limit was put in place, but Godown noted the intent is for anyone who is interested to be able to go on the kayaking trip — from families to couples (young or old) looking to try something new.

So far, there has been a lot of positive feedback about the event, which Godown credits a little to COVID-19 — with people wanting to get outside, at a safe distance and take part in an activity they might not always think about. Godown has been excited to see that reaction and is looking forward to taking advantage of the full resources of Warren Riverview Park.

“The kayaking thing was kind of sitting on the back burner for us. I just thought that it would be really great to introduce to the community, and I have a really outdoors background so that’s exactly the type of program I was looking for when I got the job, pretty much,” Godown said. “I’m just really excited to introduce something like this to the community. It’s going to be really fun.”

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