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Trisha Marczak/FOCUS Perham resident Trish McClellan pumps gas at the Tesoro station on Main Street, where prices sat at $3.69 Monday afternoon, April 4.

Rising prices at pump bring silver lining for lakes country

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Sticker shock at the pumps is prompting some families to keep vacations local - a choice that could mean good news for lake country tourism.

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Gas prices are expected to climb to nearly $4 a gallon this summer, marking a new record high for motorists.

Prices, which are hovering around $3.69 in the Perham area, are expected to peak around Memorial Day, said gasbuddy.com Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan.

While that may put a kink in long-distance road trip plans, Perham Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dan Schroeder said it could likely mean a boom for summer tourism in Otter Tail County, especially among those within a six-hour drive.

"We're fortunate because we have a place for them (tourists) to come because of our natural resources," he said.

That has been the trend in recent years, as prices have continued to climb.

"We kind of gauge it with turtle races and stuff like that," he said.

The warning signals went off this winter that prices would be sky rocketing to nearly $4 a gallon by summer.

The reason behind the drive?

It's complicated, of course, but DeHaan said a combination of factors are working against consumers at the pump.

An improved economy is largely to blame, as it means more people are out on the road purchasing gasoline. A boom in developing countries around the world has meant an increase of people consuming oil worldwide.

On top of that, uncertainty and unrest in the Middle East has added to the possibility of oil supply disruptions, DeHaan said.

And while gas prices are expected to hit the breaking point this summer, it's been an issue for many motorists year-round.

'It's not just golf season anymore - there are people who are coming up here all year long," Schroeder said of a trend he's seen throughout the lakes area.

People who are buying what would have otherwise been summer homes on area lakes are now starting to visit the area a bit more often, he said.

"People will stay a little closer to home because of prices," Schroeder said. "It's a proven fact, nationally, that you'll see travel go down through the nation and people staying closer to home."

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