Indian Shores officials show off the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s "Built Environment Award” at the May 9 town meeting. From left are council members Michael Petruccelli and Bill Smith, Mayor Patrick Soranno, Town Administrator Bonnie Dhonau, council member Ellen Bauer, and Vice Mayor Diantha Schear.






INDIAN SHORES — It was nearly a year ago that the Indian Shores Tocabaga Memorial Monument was unveiled at Tiki Gardens and the park was dedicated in the memory of former Mayor James J. Lawrence. The monument, which captured the imagination of the entire bay area, has now been awarded the Built Environment Award by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Sara Mullins of iQbranding and Galleries on the Go nominated the Indian Shores memorial, which fit the regional planning council’s criteria of a project that exemplifies regionalism in the Tampa Bay community. Mullins was the agent for the monument’s artist, Steve Graff, in connection with Geza Gaspar, the project’s sculptor. 

In Mullins’ description of the monument, she wrote, “On the 40-foot plaza there is a bronze sculpture with a family in their daily attire, and in poses natural to their cultural setting. Above the bronze centerpiece is a 14-foot arch with graphic depictions of Florida fish and wildlife on the outside, and a timeline on the inside. Installed on the plaza are two double-sided kiosks with short informative paragraphs and illustrations. The kiosks include QR codes for the viewer to access more information on a website.” 

Mullins’ overall portrayal exemplified the history, beautification of public spaces, and contribution to Tampa Bay’s regional identity that encouraged the regional planning council to select the Indian Shores Tocabaga Memorial for the award.

The award was announced at the council’s annual awards luncheon May 5 at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort. The news was publicly shared at the Indian Shores Town Council meeting on May 9.

Mullins’ nomination included the evolution of the monument from the initial Phil Graham Gulf Boulevard Plan allotting Penny for Pinellas money ($4 million to Indian Shores) and former police chief and town administrator E.D. Williams’ vision to memorialize the original Tocabaga residents. The ultimate ceremonial dedication, and a blessing performed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, came on June 16, 2022.

“They (the regional planning council) told us the vote was unanimous for our monument,” said Mayor Patrick Soranno at the town meeting. 

After the meeting, the mayor said that Town Administrator Bonnie Dhonau deserved much of the credit for the success of the project, which was multifaceted and with a myriad of moving parts.

“It has been such an honor and a highlight of my career to lead and coordinate the exceptional team that put this magnificent project together, and I am delighted that our Town Council felt it was such a worthwhile project for the Town of Indian Shores to undertake as part of the Gulf Boulevard Beautification endeavor,” said Dhonau. 

Both Mullins and Dhonau addressed how plans are in the works for on-site demonstrations and events. Mullins identified birding organizations, historical and archaeological groups and astronomy clubs for potential demonstrations. 

Dhonau remarked, “I could see the space being utilized for things like educational talks, poetry readings, wine and cheese tastings, or even a pop-up art gallery among a host of other possibilities,” Dhonau said.

Added the mayor, “The monument is a meaningful representation of the original residents of Indian Shores, and this award is an achievement that the current residents can be very proud of.”