Family of hiker who drowned at Mission Trails push to build pedestrian bridge

Local

SAN DIEGO — The family of a hiker who drowned this year at Mission Trails Regional Park is raising money to build a pedestrian bridge in hopes of keeping others safe.

The effort comes in memory of Max Lenail, a 21-year-old pre-med student at Brown University found dead at the park on Jan. 30. Lenail last was seen the previous day before heading there alone for a run. He is believed to have drowned after attempting to navigate the San Diego River Crossing Trail when he slipped into the water, father Ben Lenail said.

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On what would have been his 22nd birthday Friday, the family said it’s partnered with the San Diego Foundation to start raising money for the bridge proposal.

“The force of the river was such that (Max) had no chance even though he was an amazing swimmer, an amazing athlete and what happened to him could happen to anyone,” Lenail said.

Their goal is to raise $2 million with the intention of getting it built in the next two years ahead of Max’s 24th birthday.

“We would be tickled pink to see other bikes and runners on the bridge, enjoying the park and feeling safe and empowered in his name,” his father said.

Other hikers who know how treacherous the area can be were supportive of the project.

“That’s something that should’ve been done all along to have some kind of cross way there ‘cause there’s a bridge in other areas,” hiker Michael Haynes said. ” If you go up by the dam, there’s a bridge up there. It makes sense to have a bridge to ensure our safety.

“It’s a shame that something tragic like this has to happen in order to bring to something that needs awareness.”

To donate to the Max LeNail Memorial Bridge Fund, click here.

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