As of 2015, Wolf Lake Airport is now in its 33rd year.
Back in the late 1970s Alaska was in the midst of a construction boom. The Glenn Highway to the Valley was being completed, and Maurice Wilson (an engineer and registered land surveyor) thought that an airport for the growing number of pilots might form the basis for a residential airport-type subdivision. Since 1963, Wilson had been developing subdivisions in Valdez, Soldotna, Kenai, Homer, Big Lake, Susitna, Anchorage, and the Mat-Su Valley.
To prepare, Wilson completed courses in Airport Master Planning and Basic Utility Airport Design at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. He then studied topography maps of the Valley for a suitable site. The Wolf Lake area stood out, with potential lake, prevailing wind east-west main runway, and a crosswind swampy area near Hart Lake. Best of all, only three parcels, all homesteads, were involved in the area that would contain all the needs. Wilson bought the 80 acre homestead on the south shore of Wolf Lake and partnered with the 160 acre Chao Estate (administered by a CPA) homestead on the west to Hart Lake and with L.S. (Jerry) Kurtz Jr. (an attorney) with the 160 acres on the south and west side. Thus, an engineer, an attorney, and a CPA comprised the original team.
At that time, the land was 1 ¼ miles long and a ½ mile wide. Wilson submitted the reservation of air space to the FAA for the three airways and it was approved, primarily because it met FAA standards, such as 500 feet between building lines on the main runway, which was a first for Alaska.
To get to his cabin on Wolf Lake, Wilson had to travel on a 10 foot wide path through the woods as there was no road. However, there was the State Park on the east end of the lake and $250,000 was made available to put in the extension of Engstrom Road to the Park. Wilson’s engineering firm was awarded the contract to design several roads, including the extension. He also did the construction management and the project came in below budget. Wilson’s equipment fleet built Beechcraft and Wolf Lake Drive at that time to gain approval of the initial Aero Subdivision in 1982 from the Mat-Su Borough. In 1984, the Borough approved the First Addition to Aero Subdivision which included the airport layout and the other properties.
Several years later the economy declined and the project stagnated. At that time there were approximately twenty homeowners. In 1993 Wilson and Kurtz decided to make improvements at the airport. They let a contract to Steppers Construction, Inc. (John Eshleman’s construction company) for the marina and runway prep and also let a contract to Summit Paving for paving the first runway.
Steppers aided in the development of several other phases. In 1997, John Eshleman entered into an agreement to build the crosswind gravel runway (18-36) and extend the existing runway (6-24) to 3800 feet. Construction on the two runways occurred in 1997 and 1998. When completed, the new crosswind gravel runway became a part of the overall airport system. Taxiway J-2A was built at the same time and was paved in 1999. In addition to building and extending the runways, John also built Flying Circus Circle and extended Hart Lake Loop to just past Flying Circus Circle.
In May 1997, John Eshleman and Barbara Doty aquired the runways and taxiway tracts that comprised Wolf Lake Airport, placing the airport interests under the name of D.E. NorthFork, LLC. John and Barbara had both the ability and desire to commit to making Wolf Lake Airport the prime residential airport in Alaska.
In 1998, Tract B (the tract on the north side of runway 6-24 with the tiedowns) was in tax foreclosure at the Mat-Su Borough and in jeopardy of being lost. When the organized homeowners’ association was not able to purchase the Tract, D.E. NorthFork, LLC acquired it to prevent foreclosure and loss of the property. D.E. NorthFork, LLC added the fueling station in 2000. The lighted windsock at the fueling station was installed in 2001.
In 2000, John took on the task of cleaning up all the brush and scrub between the runways and taxiways. The debris was hauled off, and the green areas were graded, dressed, covered with topsoil, and seeded. The completion of the seeding was a great improvement and helped eliminate a lot of dust issues during windy times at the airport. In July 2001, the Mat-Su Valley Chapter of 99s painted the “WOLF LAKE” airmarking on runway 6-24. [The airmarking was repainted in June 2007.] Additionally, traffic markers with reflector tape were added to runway 6-24 to aid in night landings.
In 2002, the parallel taxiway on the north side of runway 6-24 was paved the full length of the runway. The access for the tie down area at Tract B was also paved, along with the run-up and turn-around areas on both ends of runway 6-24.
In 2003, North Skyvan Road was built and another phase of airport residential lots was developed called Lucky Lindy. Taxiway J-1 was completed and paved for aircraft access to these lots owners in 2004. The rest of Hart Lake Loop was built around the west end. Concorde Subdivision was also developed. In 2003, Steppers Construction acquired a 100 horsepower 4 X 4 tractor specifically for runway maintenance, a 16-foot triple gang mower deck for grass maintenance, and a snow blower attachment to aid in winter snow removal. The use of the snow blower did away with the large berm that was left from the grader on the south side of the runway when the grader was used to plow the runway, thus greatly improving safety during the winter months.
In 2006, Huey Lane was built and Aviator Subdivision, another phase of airport lots, was developed. A portion of the taxiway on the south side of the airport and taxiway X-6 were paved for the new section. As each section of new lots was developed, underground electric and natural gas were installed to each phase.
Up to and through 2007, all improvements and developments at Wolf Lake Airport were done by and at the sole expense of the developers. No funds were received from the Mat-Su Borough, the State of Alaska, or the FAA for development. In addition, no fees or levies were ever made for development costs to the adjacent property owners. In 2008, the lighting system for runway 6-24 was installed, and adjacent property owners were requested to participate in development costs for the first time.
In 2012, Tract X-4, X-5, and J-1 were paved, along with the south side access taxiway of Tract J1.
The majority of the property surrounding the airport is now developed. Only a few larger lots and tracts that could be re-subdivided remain. The Wolf Lake Airport development project, which was started some 30 plus years ago, is, to a great extent, complete. With development of this area spanning some three decades, Wolf Lake Airport has had its share of growing pains. However, Wolf Lake Airport is a vision that has prevailed through the up-and-down economy of Alaska.
D. E. NorthFork, in agreement with Steppers Construction, Inc., continues to manage all operations at Wolf Lake Airport, providing insurance, regular maintenance, and administrative services supported by annual airport use fees charged to each lot.
Wolf Lake Airport is now one of the premier private airports in Alaska.
Disclosure: The information gathered here is deemed to be reliable and efforts have been made to be as accurate as possible. However, some dates are estimates, and some information could be inaccurate. The information should not be used in any legal interpretation of any recorded documents that may affect your property.
Wolf Lake Airport History