The family of a man who died while on a run at Mission Trails Regional Park earlier this year received a state grant to fund the pedestrian bridge they’ve advocated for that they say could help prevent future deaths.
Project “Bridge for Max” received major support Thursday in the form of a grant from the State of California that was secured by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, officials announced. With the funds, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge will be built over the San Diego River Crossing, which is where 21-year-old Mac LeNail drowned in January.
LeNail was reported missing on Jan. 29 after he went on a run at the popular park, and his body was found soon after. His family later learned that the Brown University student was caught in a severe storm and tried to cut through the river to get back to his car. However, he was submerged underwater and died.
“Sometimes we wondered if he was sort of an angel because he was so wholesome and he was an amazing peacemaker and mediator and he brought incredible comfort to everyone that he touched,” the man’s father, Ben LeNail, said.
Since the tragedy, the LeNail family has championed for a bridge over the river so other families won’t have to feel the stinging pain of loss they feel.
“With the development of this fund, we are asking the entire San Diego community and all outdoor enthusiasts who love Mission Trails to support our efforts to build a pedestrian bridge at the site of Max’s death and prevent future tragedies,” Ben LeNail said in March.
Joined by local leaders, Ben LeNail and Max's mother Laurie Yoler thanked the public and those involved in the project for their support.
"We are eternally grateful for Councilmember Campillo's early and passionate leadership with the Max LeNail Memorial Bridge," LeNail and Yoler said in a joint statement. "We are also deeply honored by Senate President Pro Tem Atkins' sponsorship of the project. With this transformational funding, we are now well-positioned to build a bridge at the San Diego River Crossing in Mission Trails Regional Park that will provide improved access and safe passage to park guests, and honor our beloved son Max."