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BEAR LAKE, Utah (AP) -- Local businesses say they're noticing that a lot more people are visiting Bear Lake this summer, providing a needed boost to the local economy.
"I think Bear Lake has been found, and I think we're going to do nothing but get bigger," said Sue Lutz, office manager at Garden City's Blue Water Resort.
Jeff McPhie, owner of Bear Lake Lodging, says his resort was booked for the summer by March.
He said he has seen an increase in the amount of people renting cabins and condos even with higher rental prices.
Pickleville Playhouse also has customers reserving seats months in advance. Betty and LaGrande Larsen founded the rustic show house 30 years ago, and have seen it grow each year. This year, Betty Larsen said they are full almost every night, and have to turn people away who don't have reservations.
Bear Lake State Park has also had a busy early season. Brian House, acting park manager, said there was a large visitor increase for Memorial Day weekend.
Local businesses say there are a couple things driving tourism growth in the area, including warm weather, high gas prices and increased exposure.
The warm weather means comfortable water-based recreation, but the temperatures in the area are still cooler than those on the heavily populated Wasatch Front.
As many as 80 percent of the area's visitors come from the Wasatch Front, according to Judy Holbrook, tourism director for the Bear Lake Regional Commission.
And with gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon, many people aren't driving as far for vacation.
"I think people feel this is a close place," McPhie said.
Holbrook said vacationers can take several trips to Bear Lake for the same price as one long trip to a far-off destination. Visitors save money on more than gas, because the area is also more affordable than many vacation locations, she said.
"I don't think people have the money for long trips," Lutz said. "And we've got a beautiful lake, you've got to admit."
Information from: The Herald Journal www.hjnews.com
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)