DULUTH - Sonny Perdue wants people from across the country to enjoy fishing and hiking like he did as a boy.
The governor talked about marketing the state's natural resources, which is known as ecotourism, during his annual address to Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful on Monday.
After setting programs in motion to protect water resources and land during the past four years, Perdue now wants to help use the environment to both draw tourists and encourage Georgians to enjoy nature.
"We want people to create memories with a Georgia backdrop," he said.
Instead of driving through Georgia to Florida to fish, he said he wants them to stop at one of the states 4,000 miles of trout streams, 12,000 miles of warm water streams or 500,000 acres of lakes.
He said 12 million visitors have enjoyed Georgia's 41 campgrounds, 29 state parks, seven golf courses and 52 hiking trails.
"This is an area where Georgia should be leading the nation," he said. "We've been blessed by God with this land. ... I want all our Georgia families to enjoy the beauty of this state."
With its thousands of acres of parks and proximity to the Chattahoochee River and Lake Lanier, Gwinnett could take advantage of ecotourism, Commission Chairman Charles Bannister said.
"I think he's on to something," said Bannister, who is also an avid outdoorsman.
Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful Director Connie Wiggins said Perdue has stepped up as an environmental leader in his first term in office, and she even extended an invitation for next year, even though Perdue faces a re-election battle in November.
In thanks for the environmental address, which had nearly 5,000 community leaders in attendance, Wiggins named the first scholarship to Georgia Gwinnett College in Perdue's honor.
The $5,000 annual gift will cover a year of in-state tuition and fees for a student majoring in biology, said college President Daniel Kaufman. Only the first award, which will be made in January, will be in Perdue's name.