The light switch in the newly built camping cabin at the Webster County Conservation Camp WaNoKi site works just like any other light switch — up is on, down is off and the ceiling lights come on, and go off, just like they do at home.
What’s different, though, is that the electrical current in the cabin doesn’t come from the power grid.
It comes from the sun.
The heat, should a camper need it, comes from a wood-burning stove in the corner and there’s another important facility that’s a few feet away in the woods — and, yes, it does have the traditional crescent moon cut in the door.
Matt Cosgrove, Webster County Conservation director, said those choices are part of the master plan for the park during an open house Tuesday evening to show off some recent work there.
“The whole concept is to return to your primitive experience,” he said. “There’s no Wi-Fi. It’s as primitive as an experience as you can have.”
The cabin is built on an old viable foundation left from the days when the site was a Camp Fire site. They were also able to use the basic framing from the old building as well. It helped them save money and do something else as well.
“We keep some of the history of the camp,” he said.
Cosgrove said that another cabin is in the plans and will be added later.
In addition to the cabin, there are also two new primitive sites available in the north and south ends of the 80-acre park.
Campers have to navigate their way there from the new parking lot because there’s no road, just a trail.
“You can come out and work on your backpacking skills,” he said.
The sites are built around some of the old camp shelters and have a picnic table and fire pit and that other amenity is also like the one at the cabin.
“The restroom is an old-school outhouse,” Cosgrove said.
Cosgrove also shared plans for a new yet-to-be-named lodge to be built at Camp WaNoKi where the current main building, called the warming house, is located.
“It will be similar in use to the Heun Shelter at Kennedy,” he said. “We’re hoping to have it up and running by next year.”
The multiuse lodge will accommodate up to 100 people and will be available for rent.
Other additions to the site include a new parking area.
Cosgrove said crews will also soon be working on new trails.
As part of the master plan, the site won’t be as extensively developed as some other Webster County parks, such as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park.
Cosgrove said they’re striving for a balance between highly-developed and complete wilderness.
“We want to have more of that primitive experience here,” he said.
He said staff is also working on programs tailored to the site.
“The programs will come along as we go,” he said.
He said that since the completion of the parking lot he’s seen an increase in the number of visitors at the park. Many of those come to enjoy the quiet hiking trails and views of the Des Moines River.