Kevin and Tracy Slezewski, of Brussels, Wisconsin, are the driving force behind Crispy Cedars. Throughout the years, this burgeoning residential airpark surrounding a grass runway has primarily attracted interest—and aerial visitors—through word of mouth.
The origins of 7WI8 were also largely a derivative of the same person-to-person discussions.
“I have been a pilot since 1992, so when we were shopping for property, the intent was always to buy something large enough that we could put an airstrip on,” Kevin said. “We had shopped around, probably all within an hour drive of this area where we are at right now. But we didn’t have that much luck.”
Eventually, the couple’s fortune turned, as Kevin explained.
“And then, just through word of mouth we stumbled on a farmer that was looking to sell some acreage. We didn’t wait long; it was like the next day that we had an offer in and that was in 1996. There was always the intent to put in the runway and just have for ourselves.”
It wouldn’t be until nearly a decade later that the Slezewskis began the process of creating a formally recognized airstrip they hope will stand the test of time.
“So, in 2003 we took the step to get approvals through the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, the FAA, and get it on file with Door County, which is where we are located,” Kevin said. “We really wanted to cover all the bases, you know, so it wasn’t just a field that was subject to neighbors being unhappy [et cetera]. We wanted to make sure that we were covered on all the legal aspects of it.”
Their careful attention to legalities and other factors largely was the byproduct of a news story that was top of mind for most aviators.
“Back when we first built it, one of the things that was really prominent in the news was the destruction of Meigs Field,” Kevin said. “So that was one of the reasons that I kind of went to the nth degree with making sure all of the paperwork was in. People just aren’t building airports so much anymore. You might get a few private airstrips popping in, but if anything, airports are going away, unfortunately. It seems like so many are always under threat from towns [et cetera].”
Consequently, Kevin says his focus has continued to be on the airport’s future.
“I had the attitude about wanting our own airport, so my dedication has been to keep it in existence forever, even though I won’t be around forever,” he said. “I have certainly expressed my wishes to our kids, and we have written it into the deeded access that people get access to the runway to help protect it. We have taken a lot of steps that way. For me, passion and advocating for airports is how I’ve always felt about the airpark, since day one.”
With their initial due diligence completed and paperwork so that they could eventually begin building out their private airfield, there was one unexpected hurdle that cropped up.
“We actually didn’t intend to put the airstrip in right away, but I just wanted to get everything approved. But then when we got the approval from the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, they said you had nine months or something; there was some deadline on it. So [I said], I guess we are putting it in now,” he recalled. “It was one of those things where we thought we would plan for the years ahead but ended up really not being able to wait, because there was a deadline [from out of] the application.”
With this prompting approval, the couple set out to create what is now the sole turf runway on the property, which is registered at 2,000 feet long and 60 feet wide (surrounded by leased farmland). Being that there are trees at the approach end of Runway 3, there is a 400-foot displaced threshold.
Even with how much they enjoyed operating and flying from their own private airfield, the Slezewskis felt the desire to bring it to the public’s attention.
“It wasn’t too long after that, that we decided to share this with people,” Kevin said. “We thought we would build a small airpark and never intended it to be a Spruce Creek or anything like that. It’s really peaceful where we are at, with virtually no road traffic, and it’s really our intent to keep the area that way.
“It’s beautiful sitting out here in the evenings watching sunsets and we didn’t set out to build this big village. We just wanted to share it with a few people that have a passion for aviation.”
For the most part, their sharing has taken place outside the digital world.
“I have had thoughts about putting a Facebook page together and being more public about it,” Kevin said. “But I think it generates just enough interest and people know about it by word of mouth. The neighbors here have all been fantastic. We don’t have a lot of activity going on, but neighbors have always asked, even before when we had the airpark. They would say things like, ‘Geez, when are we going to see more airplanes taking off?’ So, they were always excited about it, I think, and thought it was cool.”
Aside from his enthusiasm for telling others about airpark living, Kevin is quick to explain a popular scenic route in the area. This may be of special interest to the thousands of out-of-towners who will be “in the neighborhood” for Oshkosh at the end of July.
“It’s a little bit different here than a lot of places,” Kevin said. “I think that there are only three or four airparks in the whole state of Wisconsin. We are in Door County, which is a big tourist area. Right where we are is more focused on agriculture. But I think that Door County consists of more shoreline [about 300 miles] than any other in the United States.”
Colloquially, the area has been called “The Cape Cod of the Midwest.”
“It’s really cool flying. The water is basically about three miles to the west [of us] and you can follow the coast of Door County up and around the peninsula. And then there’s Washington Island. It’s north off the tip and there is another airport to fly into there (2P2). Then you can come back down on the shores of Lake Michigan and there are shipwrecks that you can see underneath the water. It’s impressive, scenic flying and you are never far away from that here. You basically get up and see water all around you. It’s really a beautiful place to fly.”