Tampa's Riverwalk will honor city's history, people
TAMPA - Six people who played trailblazing roles in the histories of Tampa and Hillsborough County will be honored with busts along the downtown Riverwalk. In future years, dozens more groundbreakers will be honored on a historical monument trail paralleling the Riverwalk, which winds along downtown Tampa's waterfront. Monuments showcasing seminal events in the county's history ultimately will be added, too. Names of the first six honorees will be announced Tuesday. "These will be easily recognizable names by almost anyone in the area," said Steve Anderson, vice president of the board of Friends of the Riverwalk. "They will be universally known and accepted as people we're trying to represent as having a significant positive impact on this community."The project's goal is to inform Riverwalk strollers about the area's significant people and events. Honorees must be dead at least 15 years. The honorees' names will be announced at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. A panel of nine historians including Tampa Bay History Center curator Rodney Kite-Powell and former Tampa Tribune reporter Leland Hawes selected the first six historical figures. "These first six honorees are just among a larger group, any one of which could easily qualify," Anderson said. "There were probably 10 to 15 others that would be equally easy to pick." Five of the six honorees are obvious choices, he said. "One of them will be a surprise – only because you never thought of it," Anderson said. "But it will be a real surprise and a pleasant bit of information for you." The six busts will sit on solid granite pedestals. Each pedestal will have a plaque describing the person's accomplishments, Anderson said. Busts will be completed and placed along the Riverwalk in six to nine months, Anderson said. It hasn't been determined exactly where along the Riverwalk the busts will be placed. "But there will be some logical locations for maybe one or two honorees along the river," he said. The nonprofit group Friends of the Riverwalk worked with the Tampa Bay History Center on the project. The six busts were funded by private donations. Roughly $100,000 has been raised. Anderson has worked on the concept for nearly 10 years. "I first got approval from Dick Greco in his last year of being mayor, and then Mayor [Pam] Iorio loved the idea but she had a good point; she wanted to have all the monuments spread along the Riverwalk, but we had to build the Riverwalk first." Ultimately the Riverwalk will span about 2½ miles and create a pedestrian corridor from the Channel District to Tampa Heights. "We are first and goal on it," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "We have one more portion left to complete – the portion under the Kennedy bridge. It's not inexpensive, but I am looking under every rock and talking to as many people as I can to try to get this thing funded." The final portion would cost close to $12 million, he said.
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