ACEC Wisconsin

2019 Engineering Excellence Award
Best in State – Special Projects Category

Alexander Air Port - Wausau, WI

Alexander Airport Park is a small park on Wausau's southeast side, tucked up against the Wausau Downtown Airport. The facilities and play equipment at the park were aging, and a small amount of money had been budgeted by the city of Wausau for replacing the play equipment.

But an active neighborhood group had bigger ideas. The Southeast Side Neighborhood group (SES) envisioned an aviation-themed park to engage the community through physical activity, play, science, and history. SES had the innovative idea to use the proximity of the airport and Wausau's aviation history to spark an interest in aviation and aviation careers in kids. SES contacted Becher Hoppe to assist them with the park design.

The SES's overarching goal was to construct an aviation-themed park complete with aviation-themed play equipment, to-scale sidewalk runways, education panels, fitness stations, and an open shelter. But their big audacious dream was to move a decommissioned Air Force A-7D Corsair II jet, then on display at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) building, to be the focal point of the park. Planning, coordinating, and executing the jet move, all of which took almost two years, was the most challenging aspect of this project. Although owned by the United States Air Force, planning the move required coordination between the City of Wausau, the SES, the VFW, Becher Hoppe, and the Crashed, Damaged, Disabled Aircraft Recovery 115th Fighter Wing team of the Wisconsin Air National Guard based in Madison.

Because Becher Hoppe has been the Wausau Downtown Airport's engineering consultant for over forty years, we are very familiar with the airport and have a great working relationship with the airport manager, who is also a member of the SES group. The park's sidewalks are laid out to match the same compass bearings as the airport runways. Runway numbers and markings are duplicated as well. Visitors can learn about compass reading and runway orientation from educational panels, and then taking a compass to the sidewalks at the park.

The play equipment has an aviation theme as well, including a control tower and space shuttle; even the medivac helicopter play piece has the same tail identification number as the local hospital's medivac helicopter, which sits on the tarmac just over the fence. Site grading created a small hill for gliding toy airplanes, launching kites, or other kid stuff like a good ol' roll down the hill.

The transformation of a well-loved and well-known community airport, which hosts a popular Balloon and Rib Fest every July, was used by our clients as a springboard to promote learning activities, fitness, fun, and community pride.