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RV-camping needed to bolster area tourism

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More camping, RV and lodging options were one of the travel-tourism priorities that emerged during a discussion of Perham's future economic development.

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Various topics, from industrial to retail to medical services, were discussed during an open forum Jan. 31.

For nearly ten years, the concept of converting a portion of Arvig Park into a camping-RV facility has been a pet issue for Jim Rieber.

With resorts closing and selling off, and virtually no remaining lakeshore available for recreation resort development, availability of camping would expand the lodging mix in the area, said Rieber.

Following the December fire at the Cactus RV park, and the subsequent death of its developer, Chuck Minge, the future of that project is uncertain. The Cactus facility would have met some of the RV demand through the private sector. But various private sector proposals have not materialized over the years, noted Rieber. He believes a municipal project, on city land, may be necessary to make bring an RV park from idea to reality.

Perham parks and recreation board member Dave Niesen has also been a longtime supporter of camping-RV facilities. Niesen asked the public to be prepared to attend a public hearing--emphasizing camping and lodging--that he is planning to set this spring. The date and time are pending.

The discussion of lodging and tourism was part of an open forum, led by Perham City Manager Kelcey Klemm, at the Jan. 31 Economic Development Authority meeting--which was attended by nearly 100 business-industry and public sector leaders.

Develop Paul Miller Park as resort-hotel-conference center?

Another large scale proposal, which has been discussed for a number of years, is a redevelopment of Paul Miller Park. The park, on the south end of Little Pine Lake, is primarily a swimming beach, picnic area and boat launch.

But there is a vision to develop a lakeside conference center and resort-hotel at the site. Dennis Happel said that the 1,500 feet of undeveloped lakeshore is "one of the best assets in the area."

The park, which is city-owned, butts up against the Perham Lakeside Golf Course to the south--which is also city-owned. Together, Perham could have a golf, water sport, resort-hotel, conference facility that would rival some of the major resorts in the state.

High taxes a concern for resorters

For those resort operators still in business, it may be only a matter of time before high lakeshore values, high taxes and other economic factors convince them to sell out.

Jason Braaten, Farmers State Bank, voiced concerns that the extremely high lake frontage taxes could further eliminate lodging options in the lake country.

Perham can capitalize on high gas prices, suggests Chamber director

The fear of high gas prices has had an impact on the tourism sector--but it doesn't necessarily have to be a negative impact.

That's the feeling of Dan Schroeder, Perham Area Chamber of Commerce director, who believes high gas prices could be something of an "asset" to the East Otter Tail lake country.

Schroeder believes high fuel prices will mean vacationers will be staying closer to home. Perham is strategically located near several larger markets, including Fargo-Moorhead, Grand Forks, and the Twin Cities. The distance is within a tank of gas, which will be very attractive to travelers from those areas.

In addition, Perham's location on the east-west Highway 10 corridor is accessible. Also, north-south Highway 78 gives Perham easy access from the lake area, including Otter Tail, Rush, Battle and others.

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