‘Bridge for Max’ project gets $1.5 million state grant


SAN DIEGO — A family’s push to bring a bridge to the Mission Trails river crossing where their son died in January just got a major boost from the state.

District 7 Councilmember Raul Campillo joined Max LeNail’s family Thursday to announce a $1.5 million grant from the state will help fund the project at Mission Trails Regional Park.

Max LeNail, a 21-year-old Brown University student who had recently moved to San Diego, headed to the park for a run on Jan. 29 but never made it home. A strong winter storm brought heavy rain, hail and snow to San Diego County that week, and a flash flood watch had been issued for parts of the county.

LeNail’s disappearance spurred a big search and rescue mission by local authorities and the community, which ended when his body was found in the water near the San Diego River foot crossing north of the Jackson Drive and Mission Gorge Road park entrance.

“He knew the wilderness, but he probably slipped and then hit his head and died of a combination of head trauma and hypothermia,” Max’s father Ben LeNail said after his body was found. “The best way to describe it is a freak accident.”

Ben LeNail described Max as an outdoors enthusiast who was also passionate about helping others. He was a pre-med student set to graduate in May.

After Max’s body was recovered, the LeNail family set out to raise $2 million to bring a bridge to the river crossing where he lost his life. Their ‘Bridge for Max’ proposal unanimously passed the MTRP Citizens Advisory Committee and Task Force earlier this year.

On Thursday morning, Campillo announced California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins secured $1.5 million in state funds to help fund the bridge and construction is expected to start soon.

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