TAMPA, Fla. (TBO.com) — The calling cards left behind by the nation’s collegiate rowers will be removed from a stretch of the Hillsborough River seawall.

The Tampa City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to allow Friends of the Riverwalk to scour graffiti from a 650-foot segment of the river that will become part of an art installation affiliated with the Riverwalk. The vote came after the council amended a resolution to specify the exact area of the seawall to be affected.

What appeared at first to be a simple matter of cleaning up after an illegal activity turned controversial two weeks ago when some members of the council and the public said the project amounted to an affront to Tampa’s heritage. The council delayed action on Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s request for funding for the cleanup so it could receive public input.

The quirky symbolism and braggadocio of decades of rowing teams, many of whom came from the frigid north to practice their craft in Tampa’s balmy winter climate, is seen by many as art itself and a symbol of the city.

On Thursday, resident Sam Corson likened the colorful graffiti to the University of Tampa minarets, the Bayshore Boulevard balustrade, and Tampa’s historic cigar factories.

“Destroying this art sends the wrong signal to those rowing teams that choose where they come,” he said. “They don’t have to come to Tampa.”

Photo Credit TBO.com

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