Bill Wenk: The Developer of Lowry’s Land

March 3, 2024 / Comments Off on Bill Wenk: The Developer of Lowry’s Land

Diversity & Inclusion Lowry Community Building

Landscape architects aren’t those summer gardeners who plant tulips and dahlias and stand and look at their work. They are geniuses who look at BIG land like parks or the 52-miles of the Los Angeles River. They understand the curve and natural systems of the land, drainage, and how storms flow off of the city. Out of bland land like some of our Lowry used to be – crisscrossed with runways – they magically turn the land into spectacular places.

And one of those magicians, well known nationally in his field, lives here in Lowry and is humble about his care and treatment of the land. Bill Wenk, and his wife Marlene, are quiet, calm and workers. You’ve been to the Great Lawn, walked along the Westerly Creek Dam – what we call the ”big dam” – looming over the wonderful Sports Park, brilliantly designed so the driving path and parking splits the two areas putting patrons in closer contact to the athletes. Massive ramps curve and carry you to the top of the dam. This is Bill Wenk’s work.

Bill Wenk was raised on farm in Michigan surrounded by cows, pigs, with regular chores before school and after, wandering through an 19th century apple orchard and running a saw mill in the winter.  “I remember a lot of work, work, work,” he says of those early days. And school? “I wasn’t a big fan of school.”

But he had the 4H Club and FAA to work with and eventually was judging the live stock in high school. “A high school teacher saw I was always drawing in class and recommended landscape architecture rather than agriculture. He attended Michigan State where he finished with a degree in Landscape Architecture and is now a distinguished alumni. He then moved along to an MA at the University of Oregon . “I was trained to think of my work as meshing a combination of art/science/engineering/ecology and natural and urban systems.”

It is amazing to see what happens to space and to land when these ideas are applied. His job is to carve out a thoughtfully designed area that works. And by works, meaning the water (gold here in the west) isn’t just left running loose. FACT: Water from the town center is piped over to the Great Lawn to water the park, to remove pollution from storm runoff and support the wetlands that are home to an array of wildlife.

His firm, Wenk Associates has 20 employees and has won many honors for their careful development of their projects. Bill speaks around the country and world on water and the environment, making connections that contribute to solving problems ranging from water conservation in the West to Global Warming. FACT: Lake Mead’s evaporation rate is twice the amount of water that Denver uses in a year. Mull that one over and you’ll start to think like Bill Wenk: conscientious, thoughtful, and provocative. In the old West, there’s a saying: Water flows uphill towards money!

The Great Lawn was originally a desolate field with Westerly Creek buried below which Bill’s firm pulled to the surface, and wound it through sculpted landscape. It offers not only a view but handles water runoff.  Wetlands removed pollutants as well as offering a home to many types of wild life. Pelicans, often seen in the spring, have a wonderful stopping off point while flying south.

The Wenks lived in Denver in Park Hill and then moved to Lowry because, “Well, because it’s a great place to live, and we can walk to the post office at one end and Clark’s at another.” They both enjoy the restaurants and life style being able to mosey around in the Great Lawn around the design that contains swampy parts with beavers and muskrats and a playground for children. Something for everyone.

The Kelly Dam at the north end (along 11th Avenue) was constructed by the Corp of Engineers before closure of the airfield and is now laced with trails that, through connections to the Great Lawn, Sports Park and Westerly Creek Dam, form the largest interconnected trails and openspace systems in Denver. Walking through the Great Lawn near the gnomon (the spiky thing), Bill is happy to see “social trails” where people have determined where they will walk in the park, away from the paved paths.

Land development on any project must consider the many uses that land has to serve and to many age groups. Parks for children, paths for dog walkers, places for sitting, carved out seats near a stream for sitting or fishing all have priorities. FACT: Volleyball Courts when soccer is out of season are setup in the Sports Park in the summer with more than 50 courts. That is adaptable use of the land – our Lowry land.

Marlene Wenk nods at Bill’s telling of his story, but her path through all of this is also interesting. Originally from Ohio, she attended the University of Toledo graduating with a degree in education. She did graduate study in social work at DU for an MS.  She worked in child custody for Jefferson Country handling family treatment cases and child protection. Marlene also worked as a mediator in Jefferson County Social Services and as a contractor with the Colorado Office of Dispute Resolution in Arapahoe County. FACT: Kathy Head, Chair of Lowry United Neighborhoods, was her first supervisor. She enjoys pottery, spoiling her grandchildren and is on the LUN Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Safety Committee.  

She and Bill like traveling and recently spent time on St. Lucia in the Caribbean and no doubt explored the land and water features there. Scotland is in the plans for fall. Both enjoy biking and have fun exploring new places and of course looking over water projects.

Both are “retired” now but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t continually working, exploring, researching, and following up on various topics of interest. Bill is on top of his work and keeps up with various development projects both past and future.  He serves on the Lowry Design Review Committee of the Master Association and also restores middle eastern rugs and tribal weavings. Their home has a dozen or more of these colorful pieces restored and framed on the walls.  

When talking about lives worth living, both Wenks use their time and talents wisely. They are enjoying their Lowry community and all that it offers—especially this great piece of land that he has helped to carve out and developed. Well done, Wenk  Associates; well done Bill Wenk.

Meet Your Lowry Neighbors is a monthly feature written by our intrepid reporter Sally Kurtzmanwho knows everyone in our community. If you have a suggestion for a Meet Your Lowry Neighbor, please send us an email to