Jeff Volovsek thinks integrating a grass landing strip on his family’s property in Greenwood, Wisconsin, will draw attention to a site that already has a long history.
“Wedges Creek Hideaway is a third-generation, family-owned business. It’s been an evolution from farming and logging, into an industrial sawmill for many years. After my father passed, I picked up the reins and transitioned all of the buildings and the land with it into a campground and events center.”
For several years, Volovsek admits that there was less traction on the campground idea than he would have liked. This was primarily due to the property’s location and lack of water features onsite. That said, it does have trail access to Wedges Creek, which was the inspiration for the business’s name.
Eventually, though, the campgrounds became more popular and grew in size. The increased traffic to the campgrounds was the result of Volovsek adding additional amenities, in addition to word getting out about the burgeoning concept.
“Over the years, we added a campground with five cabins and 20 RV sites. In 2017, we added a brick-oven restaurant and a live music stage to create a weekend destination. We also went through the process with the state [of Wisconsin] and acquired a beer and wine license. All of a sudden, you start to become a destination,” he said.
Throughout much of the property’s history, a portion was dedicated for use by aircraft.
“My grandfather broke the ground back in the 1940s and they created some fields for growing crops and worked in the logging industry. My father, Dave Volovsek, continued in the logging field and later developed a sawmill operation. My father became interested in recreational flying in the late 1970s and got his license. He was a longtime EAA [Experimental Aircraft Association] member and created a half-mile-long-by-100-foot-wide landing strip (located approximately at 44.70, -90.68) from part of an adjacent field.”
Volovsek says that over the years, a number of aircraft had flown to the property, from Piper Cubs to Cessna 150s. But it had been quite a while since an airplane touched down.
Dan Hiller flew into Wedges Creek this summer in his “heavily modified” 1957 Piper Tri-Pacer. He explained how he was able to get permission to be the property’s first public fly-in visitor in its current capacity.
“I’m from the area where Wedges Creek is located and saw on Facebook that they were doing pizzas and what not. I visited and saw the hayfield on the property and having a pilot
background—I obviously saw an airstrip,” Hiller recalled. “Jeff is awesome and makes a point to go around and talk to guests. We got to talking and I learned that this was in fact an airstrip. I said to him I want to try and fly into the strip. It’s been a few years and life has been busy, but this year I was finally able to do that.”
His experience operating from the strip is growing.
“There is some sort of intimidating value to the strip, which is really interesting, because I have a lot of short and soft field experience,” Hiller said. “It’s one of those deceiving strips where you have tall trees that affect performance. I have a lot of shortfield experience and did a couple of practice approaches before committing to my first landing there. There is so much runway, but with how it’s configured—it’s interesting.”
Reflecting on the challenging aspects of the runway, Hiller said, “The future is bright for the airstrip. It is definitely fun and a great place to fly to. The future is definitely going to be awesome here at Wedges Creek Hideaway.”
Even with this positive pirep, it’s a trial run to keep the airstrip an airstrip, Volovsek admitted.
“We are hoping to retain the field in the hopes of providing a unique experience for adventure seekers,” Volovsek said. “It’s just been tough to justify its upkeep because I don’t currently fly and have been more focused on maintaining and developing the campground portion of the property. The field has been in the cross hairs a few times to generate revenue through crops, but I haven’t let a plow on it yet. I am still hopeful of attracting visitors or trying to consider other uses for the field (3-hole golf course or driving range when not in use) to justify the diesel to keep it mowed short.”
With that said, both Hiller and Volovsek said they are confident the runway will continue its aerial-serving purpose. Volovsek said he is also considering potential future improvements to the land, to make operations smoother.
“If there’s interest in a group, we would certainly like to work with a team or somebody—even if they wanted to develop or provide some feedback,” Volovsek said. “We’ve been looking at expanding the runway and taking out some of the bookend lines of trees, so there is better line of sight for lining up to land. But the biggest thing is that we just need to coordinate or know if somebody does want to fly in. We are not a public strip where anybody can just pop in whenever. Sometimes the field conditions don’t [warrant operations]. The 3 or 4 inches of rain we received this weekend wouldn’t be a good time to fly in, until the runway dries out, for example.”
Volovsek noted that where the airfield is presently at, has in part been assisted by the efforts of the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF).
“I applaud the RAF’s efforts in making grass strips and other things in the legislature [occur],” he said. “Such as taking the onus off the owner and placing it on the operator flying in, for liability purposes. That’s helped encourage me to try and attract people on the outside to our venue. That is a message too, that the RAF is doing some good work for trying to protect landowners and the interests of people wanting to explore grass landing strips and unique places.”
Even with the expectations of the additional upkeep it will take to ensure that the airfield is ready for aviators, Volovsek said he is hopeful it will be the next way traffic is increased at Wedges Creek Hideaway.
“We were going to try and market a specific event [to fly-in] because people were really attracted when Dan did fly in. He got a lot of attention,” he said. “So, with us being a location, we’re trying to use the airfield to our advantage to try to attract customers to our unique offering.”