Tiny houses provide another option for campers

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Webster County Conservation Director Matt Cosgrove and natural resource and trail technician Tasha Nielsen recently took a tape measure to the interior of a tiny house being readied for campers at the Gypsum City OHV Park southeast of Fort Dodge.

They measured its interior at 7 feet 6 inches wide and 21 feet long, give or take an inch for tape sag.

That’s 157.5 square feet of living space.

That is, indeed, tiny.

Yet, in that tiny space, there’s a shower and toilet, a kitchen, a futon to sleep on and a medium-sized fridge — oh, and not-so-tiny windows to look out of.

“It’s part of an effort to provide different options for our campers,” Cosgrove told The Messenger.

Plans call for having six of the tiny homes at the park. He said that they will be adding two to three each year.

Each one will have a different decor theme. The first one has a mining theme in recognition of the site’s former life as a source of gypsum.

“This one is the Mill House,” Nielsen said. “It goes with the gypsum mining theme. I have some red and black curtains that will go nicely in here.”

The house are constructed through a program that pairs Iowa Central Community Instructors with inmates at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility. The inmates build them as part of their educational experience in the building trades.

Each basic house costs between $12,000 and $14,000.

“That goes up a bit with the various add-ons,” Cosgrove said.

The houses have to be kept under a specific width and height to fit through the gate when they leave the correctional facility.

The first home is on wheels, but future homes will be on skids. The first one is also a standard model. Future homes will be customized to Webster County Conservation’s specifications.

“They’ll have a little different layout.” Nielsen said.

While 157.5 square feet may not sound like much. The tiny home feels much larger than that inside. A slightly taller than standard ceiling that’s peaked helps with that, as does the open layout.

The tiny houses will be available for rent during the regular camping season from April 15 to Oct. 15. The rent for the units, will be set later this month.