ATLANTA — Atlanta’s Grant Park is full of historic trees, but many near the main road are marked with orange Xs.

Leigh Finlayson lives across the street from a row of trees on Boulevard Street, many of which are more than 50 years old, where a semi-underground three-story parking deck is planned.

He’s leading the campaign to save some of the 131 trees on the chopping block by calling for the city of Atlanta to build a smaller parking deck and move it further inside the park.

Finlayson has filed a tree conservation appeal with the city to save some of the trees, WABE Radio reported .

“This is a late-life conversion, if you will,” said Finlayson, a criminal defense lawyer. “I was a Boy Scout as a kid, I spent a lot of time in the wilderness, but this was never my calling or mission until it just came to my front yard. Now it’s become a priority.”

Finlayson questions why the parking deck has to be so large.

“Why this deck has to be 1,000 spaces makes no sense,” he said. “I think there are good people that mean well here, but this is a no brainer. If it could be limited in a way, at least save the trees on Boulevard, I could probably stomach it better.”

The new “Gateway Project” is expected to have a “glass dine-in regional cuisine restaurant” with casual dining on the first level and fine dining on the top level “with balconies overlooking green roof elements,” WABE reported.

In addition to improvements at Zoo Atlanta, the total project is set at a maximum cost of $48 million. The city approved a $35.5 million revenue bond earlier this year for the parking deck and authorized the transfer of funds from other departments to fund the remaining $12.5 million.

At a recent open house at the Grant Park Recreation Center, city of Atlanta arborist Chris Kallio sympathized with resident Barbara Antonoplos, who complained there were a lot of trees being chopped down for a parking deck.

“There’s no getting around it, it’s a lot of tree impact,” Kallio responded. “We’re doing the best I can with getting stuff put back in the park. If a tree is going to be saved, it is up to us to make sure that it’s saved.”

Not everyone shares the same concern about losing trees in the neighborhood.

“Right now people are continually going around and around to find a parking spot,” neighborhood resident Norman Pawloski said. “When I look out my door, it’ll be greenspace. It’ll be a great improvement over what they have now.”

He said he’s excited the deck will have a green roof and is meant to blend in with the park.

“I’ve seen all the (yard) signs ‘Save the Trees of Grant Park’ but to move on, you have to do what’s best for the project,” Pawloski said. “The plans look good. There’s always going to people protesting this or not wanting that. That can just drag it on forever.”

Information from: WABE-FM,

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