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Bainbridge teen ends tree-sit to block shopping center development

19-year-old Chiara D'Angelo-Patricio stands atop a platform 70 feet above the ground to protest the cutting of 800 trees for a new Bainbridge Island shopping center. She came down Tuesday evening amidst threats of arrest. (Charles A. Conatzer photo)

A Bainbridge Island teen who tied herself to a tree 70-feet above the ground has given up her protest and come down.

Chiara D’Angelo-Patricio climbed the tree early Monday morning in an effort to stop developers from cutting down over 800 trees for the planned development.

Police had given the 19-year-old lifelong island resident several deadlines before they would arrest her for trespassing, but D’Angelo-Patricio ignored them and stayed on a platform she erected in the trees.

KING 5 reports Visconci, the company that owns the land, gave demonstrators until 7:30 p.m. to leave the property where it plans to develop a 60,000+ square foot shopping center.

“We are very concerned about the safety of Bainbridge resident Chiara D’Angelo as we continue to develop our property,” the company said in a statement. “We want her to understand that we acknowledge her point of view. We respect her right – and all community members’ rights – to voice their opinions. But we respectfully urge D’Angelo and all others to do this in a safe and lawful manner.”

Dori Monson: “Why do you think you have a right to tell somebody else how to deal with their land, their property?”

Chiara: “I’m not trying to tell someone how to deal with it. I’m trying to open community dialogue.”

Listen to Dori’s interview with Chiara

The new shopping center is expected to be home to a KeyBank branch, Bartell Drugs, restaurants and other businesses.

But Chiara argues the development isn’t needed and will have devastating impacts on local businesses.

“I believe that Bainbridge needs more time to really express their frustrations with this mall and really take in what this mall is going to mean for our island, what it could mean for local businesses,” she said in an interview from the platform she erected in the treetops.

Opponents have unsuccessfully fought to stop the development for more than a year, and with logging set to begin on the property, the Western Washington University student decided it was time to act.

While she admits she’d love to see her protest stop the development, she admits the broader goal is to raise as much awareness as possible with ongoing rallies and a letter-writing campaign.

Nearly 100 people turned out for a candlelight vigil Saturday at the site, and dozens, including her mom Debra, were on hand to support her Monday from below.

“I feel honored, that’s how I feel to call her my daughter,” Debra said. “We felt like somebody’s got to speak out and she did.”

Chiara told KIRO Radio Monday she didn’t have a plan for how long she would maintain her protest.

“Right now, I’m feeling pretty right up here,” Chiara said. “I’m feeling pretty confident and pretty comfortable with my ground support, with the amount of food and water I have here, and really with my intention here. I feel really strong about my intention.”

She also has a cell phone with a solar charger and a good book to keep her company.

Ohio-based developer Visconsi had told the Bainbridge Island Police Department it planned to push for an arrest after 4 p.m. Monday, she said. That passed and police set another deadline for 4 p.m. Tuesday but that also passed with no arrest.

Authorities did move a cherry picker to a site nearby the protest, but whether police can or will try to remove her from the tree remains to be seen.

Chiara, an environmental justice major at WWU, says she’s always had a passion for the environment of Bainbridge, especially the waters of Puget Sound, and the mall protest is just part of her dedication to preserving a quality of life she says is threatened by increased development.

“I grew up feeling very nourished by this island and I’ve seen this island really shift and change and I think it’s really time for us to say keep Bainbridge, Bainbridge.”

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