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UPDATE | Island teen says tree-sit will lead to expanded dialogue on Visconsi development
A protest in a bank parking lot reached new heights Monday as a Bainbridge teenager climbed a 100-foot tall evergreen for a sit-in among the tree branches in opposition of the new shopping development planned for High School Road.
Bainbridge High School graduate Chiara D’Angelo is sitting 70 feet up on a platform roped to an evergreen tree in a protest that started early Monday morning.
"This is my home, and it matters to me," D'Angelo said.
Organizers of the tree sit said D'Angelo is occupying one of the approximately 800 trees planned to be cut down for the shopping center. The tree sit — the first in the state since 1999, organizers said — followed a candlelight vigil and demonstration against the development project Saturday night.
"The tree sit is an effort designed to create more time for the community of Bainbridge to move into action and voice their opposition to this unsustainable development," D'Angelo said.
"I am hoping this sit leads to expanded dialogue about what we want this Island to look like in our future."
Ohio-based developer Visconsi received approval to begin clear cutting the land earlier this month.
The clearing will be the first step in building a nearly 62,000-square-foot shopping center directly across from Ace Hardware.
The development will include a Bartell Drugs, a KeyBank branch, restaurants, professional services and health care facilities.
The tree sit, D'Angelo said, is not only a campaign for time. It's a demonstration to protect the kind of island life she grew up with for future generations to enjoy.
She comes from a long line of Bainbridge Island family.
Her grandfather, Art Patricio, served as a ferry boat captain for 50 years. Her grandmother, Lora Hart, worked at Streamliner Diner while she raised her children on Bainbridge.
Likewise, D'Angelo grew up on Bainbridge and graduated last year from BHS.
"The reason I was able to do this climb, is because I have access to skills," D'Angelo explained.
"To have those skills, you have to have access to this beautiful place."
In protest of the project, D’Angelo led 80 residents of all ages Saturday in a candlelight vigil at the site.
The demonstration continued this morning as D’Angelo picketed alongside the busy intersection before making it up 70 feet in an evergreen.
While D'Angelo declined to comment on how long she plans to stay in the tree, she said she is prepared for cold nights and sunburn.
Two Bainbridge police officers were called to the scene just after 8 a.m. Monday and were helping direct traffic to ProBuild.
The Bainbridge Island Fire Department also responded, but determined D'Angelo was not in immediate danger.
"A new shopping center is wholly unnecessary on Bainbridge,” said Kent Bridwell, the lead organizer behind a boycott pledge that began last month.
“Too many local businesses have already failed and there are vacant storefronts everywhere,” he said.
Bridwell and D'Angelo are now encouraging others in opposition of the shopping center to help pen 830 letters of protest to KeyBank — one for each tree to be cut.