One of the overriding missions of HangarSphere is to share and celebrate the lifestyles of those who love aviation and have incorporated it into their day-to-day lives. Airparks capture this element right at the very core. Alpine Airpark, in the extreme western reaches of Wyoming, was an obvious choice as the spotlight of HangarSphere’s first issue.
I recently caught up with Bill Wiemann who developed the airpark and now manages it on a full-time basis. Bill reviewed how he discovered the airport, the condition it was originally in, his vision for the airport and how it became a reality.
This story begins more than 20 years ago in Fargo, ND. Here, Bill was the owner of American Building Brokers. For 15 years, he managed construction projects all over North Dakota as well as in Arizona. Projects varied in size and scope but there remained a consistency in manufacturing aircraft hangars. As a pilot and aviation enthusiast, these projects planted the seed for what would later become Alpine Airpark.
While traveling from North Dakota to Arizona in his motor home, Bill took a fairly large detour through western Wyoming to look for a new home in the Jackson area. What the market had to offer was $2 million homes on one-half acre lots. Unwilling to accept this scenario, he decided to continue to Arizona to “regroup.”
35 miles south of Jackson he noticed something while driving through Alpine, Wyoming and recalled it vividly, “a lone windsock out on the peninsula.” Alpine is on the southeastern shoreline of the Palisades Reservoir and tucked within the junction of three rivers that feed directly into the Palisades. The peninsula that Bill saw with the “lone windsock” was actually the last one-third of what appeared to be an abandoned runway jutting into the reservoir.
Much to his surprise, the airport was still active but in dire need of repair and service upgrades. Instantly intrigued with the new discovery, Bill spent the next several days getting to know the small town of Alpine and its natural offerings of streams, lakes, mountains, and National Forests. This unique setting, his professional experience, his passion for aviation and his love for outdoor activities all culminated in Alpine and he instantly saw a vision of what this airport could become.
Bill formed a plan of action to support his vision that would transform 46U (the airport’s identifier) into an airpark that would mirror the natural beauty surrounding it and act as a home base for all the outdoor activities so close at hand. He took the plunge and made the first step of purchasing property in Alpine. The second step involved purchasing the runway from the existing owner and the adjacent properties.
Runway and taxiway improvements were made. The runway was lengthened to 5,800 feet and widened to 50 feet. Taxiways were repaved. The primary ramp area was enlarged to accommodate 12 aircraft. The fuel farm and delivery system received upgrades including a 12,000-gallon avgas tank with self-serve credit card reader. A Garsite fuel truck was purchased for Jet-A customers. And finally, housing lots were partitioned, sold and construction began on several unique homes and hangars.
The overall site plan included various property sizes and building requirements to ensure that a diverse group of aviation enthusiasts may one day call Alpine Airpark home. Property sizes vary and can be several acres in size and nearly every one of them include views of the mountains and the lake. Homes may be built to your own individual specifications as long as it carries the theme of the airpark. Most homes can be seen accented with 200-year-old reclaimed timber, metal roofing and stonework.
There exist hundreds of airparks across North America and all compete with each other to attract homeowners. The biggest selling point to any airpark community is what is available off the airport. Alpine is located a quick 35 miles south of Jackson, WY. Shopping, dining and entertainment and all the creature comforts of a larger city are easily accessible. The city of Alpine, with a population of nearly 1,000, presents a quant, small-town atmosphere with all the essential services one may require including restaurants, hotels, grocery shops and entertainment.
The primary advantage of Alpine, WY, is its location and surrounding natural beauty. Alpine sits on the confluence of the Snake, Greys, and Salt Rivers that flow into the 16,100-acre Palisades Reservoir. Together, these bodies of water offer world-class trout fishing, canoeing, kayaking, boating and waterskiing.
In addition, the town and airpark are wrapped by 360-degree mountain views. No matter where you are, all you have to do is look up and see the mountains. Located in these mountains are the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. These publicly owned forests possess some of the most beautiful wilderness in the country with millions of acres of land for recreational enjoyment. For snowmobiling and snow-skiing enthusiasts, www.alpinewyoming.org reports an annual snowfall average of 500 inches! Other areas include opportunities for horseback riding, snowmobiling, all-terrain-vehicle use and, of course, back-country flying.
Aside from the physical draw, there exist two intangibles that also pull many people to the area. The first intangible element that creates such a draw to 46U is the sense of community and camaraderie within the airpark and the city of Alpine. Airshows, fly-ins, 4th of July parades, dog sled races and group activities of snowmobiling, dirt biking, mountain biking and white-water rafting are all opportunities to get to know everyone and build long-lasting relationships with those who share common interests.
The second intangible draw is the fact that Wyoming is a “tax-friendly” state. Here is a list of the top-10 tax advantages Wyoming has to offer:
- No state income tax. With no state tax on personal or corporate income Wyomingites have more disposable income.
- In Wyoming, you can shield your real estate from federal estate taxes for up to 1,000 years through a dynasty trust.
- No inheritance tax or estate tax.
- No state gift tax. A person who owns property in WY can gift that real estate to their heirs without having to pay a state gift tax.
- No tax on out-of-state retirement income.
- Low property taxes.
- No excise taxes.
- No tax on mineral ownership.
- No intangible taxes: Wyoming doesn’t make you pay a tax on financial assets like stocks and bonds.
- No tax on the sale of real estate.
(Source: Alpine Airpark Website)
Need I say more?
Today, Alpine Airpark is an established aviation community with full-time and seasonal inhabitants. Those who are seasonal come from all over the country in all makes and models of aircraft ranging from Cessnas, Cirrus, Pipers and Mooneys all the way up to King Airs, Citations and Beechjets. One must not forget the fleet of Husky aircraft based in 46U! Husky ownership is not required but chances are that if you live there, sooner or later you will get some “stick-time” in a Husky as Bill Wiemann also happens to be a dealer for Aviat Aircraft.
The future of Alpine Airpark is bright with many plans that include the establishment of a GPS approach, the installation of runway and taxiway lighting, and the installment of an Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS). One final touch is to have on-site car rentals and bicycles for those transient pilots and passengers who want to pay a visit to downtown Alpine.
It was by chance that I had the opportunity to meet Bill Wiemann and I would like to express my sincere “Thanks” to him for working with me on this article. It’s been a thrill to get to know him and his Alpine Airpark community. The airport is open to the public so plan a fuel stop at 46U and take a moment to witness nature at its best. Be careful though because your stay in Alpine may become a permanent one. Some homes and empty lots are still available and Bill will be able to answer any other questions you may need answers to. Tap HERE to send him an email or you may call him at 701-367-6161.
There is one last person I would like to give my “Thanks” to and that is Sue Haun. She is the owner of 5640 Design, Inc. and was kind enough to give permission to HangarSphere to republish these beautiful images taken in and around the Alpine Airpark. For those of you who are wondering, 5640 references the field elevation of Alpine Airpark.
If any of you would like to share a profile and/or history of your airpark, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or by phone at 608-347-3550. I will be more than happy to learn about your airpark community and share it with all the readers of HangarSphere.