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At Holland Airpark, residents have unique chance to live the high life

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At Holland Airpark, residents have unique chance to live the high life
Chuck Young owns two experimental airplanes that he flys out of his own hangar. Young and his wife Eileen live in the Holland Air Park community north of Holmen.
Photo by Paul Sloth

The sign on Amsterdam Prairie Road in Holmen warns people to be on the lookout for low flying planes. From Highway 53, it's not easy to see that there's a runway just beyond the row of trees with homes along either side.

Living the high life takes on a whole new meaning for people living at the Holland Airpark.

Many of the residents already living there are pilots, and many build their own planes.

There are still lots available in this unique subdivision.

"It's the area's best kept secret," said Chuck Young.

While there are plenty of smaller airports in Wisconsin, Young said there aren't many airparks like this.

Young and his wife Eileen have lived at the airpark for nearly 11 1/2 years.

Their house at the north end of the runway was one of the first built at the airpark.

The airpark was the brainchild of Jim Cote, a former construction engineer and one of the founders of Mathy Construction. He used his knowledge of highway construction to design it.

In 1978, Cote bought 54 acres of land and began construction of the airpark.

Cote also used his experience in the aviation business from six years he spent managing the

La Crosse Municipal Airport. Cote was also a pilot and built the first hangar at the airpark.

Of the 36 lots available, almost half were sold three years after the project began.

Cote and his business partners eventually sold the airpark.

Fred Bauer, whose family bought the airpark, still owns it.

Two years ago a group of current residents formed Airpark Flyers, LLC.

There are currently 21 members of the Airpark Flyers. They pay to join and the money is used to maintain the airpark. Maintaining a 3,200-foot-long runway is a big job.

While his passion for flying began at an early age, Young took awhile to become a pilot.

When he was 16 years old, he took his first flight with the legendary Max Conrad, the flying ace from Winona.

Young didn't get his pilots license until he was in his 50s, but he always remembered his first flight.

Conrad instilled in Young a passion for aviation which he is trying to pass on to younger generations.

Young, a retired University of Wisconsin-La Crosse social work professor, started flying later in life, after what he described as a mid-life crisis.

He started flying around 1982, when he took his first lesson from Chuck Anderson, a former pilot who lived at the airpark.

Young eventually bought Anderson's home at the airpark after he died.

Before he purchased his first plane, Young started flying ultralight planes with his friend and neighbor, Roger Ringelman.

Ringelman was a helicopter mechanic during Vietnam. He has been a pilot for over 41 years.

He and his wife lived at the airpark for 18 years, but they are in the process of building a new home in a similar community called Loves Landing in Florida.

"If you're a pilot, it's the only way to live," Ringelman said.

Young eventually bought his first plane and he has owned several since.

"I've never met a plane I didn't like," said Young, who recently completed an experimental plane he built from a kit.

"People think you have to be independently wealthy, but that is just not the case," Young said.

On a sunny day, residents here can walk out into their hangars, get into their planes and fly to, say, Eau Claire for lunch if they want to.

The airpark is home to 28 recreational planes flown, and often built, by their owners.

There are approximately 300 flights out of the airpark each month.

Bill and Connie Deuble moved to the airpark from Kenosha, Wis.

"I can fly, but only in emergencies," Bill Deuble said. "My wife is the pilot in the family."

On Sunday, the Deuble's will host the annual chickencue for the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

There aren't many places around where you can fly in and grab a bite to eat, but count the Holland Airpark as one of them. Last year about 150 people attended the event.

Young is a past president of the local chapter of the EAA. He said there are about 50 members of the La Crosse chapter from around the area.

The chapter also hosts a Young Eagles event every fourth Thursday of the month where members offer flights to youngsters.

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