In January 2021, Max Lenail, a  pre-med student at Brown University, went on a hike at Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego County.  Max was a on a popular hike in the Fortuna Peaks area, and just a few minutes away from the Visitor Center Loop.

Sadly, Max drowned while hiking on a dangerous part of the trail, crossing the San Diego River.

A bridge is critical for hiker’s safety

Unfortunately, that trail does not have a pedestrian bridge to cross the river, creating a treacherous hazard. The strong current of the river combined with slippery, mossy rocks makes for extremely dangerous conditions, especially during winter weather, for hikers of all levels. Max was an experienced outdoorsman and high-performance athlete. If this happened to him, it could really happen to anyone.

The Mission Trails Regional Park Master Plan has long planned for the creation of a pedestrian bridge across the San Diego River, where Max tragically drowned. There is no time for delay, and this unfortunate tragedy is a stark reminder that this dangerous crossing must be immediately addressed.

About Max Lenail

Max Lenail was a 21-year-old college student who was an avid runner and rock-climber; and loved the mountains and the wilderness. Max was was studying remotely in San Diego, while socially distanced school was in session due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Max had grown up in Palo Alto CA and was loved by the community. He was an expert glassblower, skilled chef, photographer, and high-potential young medical scientist.

The Max Lenail Memorial Bridge Fund

The Lenail Family and the community are now working to have a bridge built in Max’s memory at the river crossing as soon as possible to prevent future tragedies.

Today, conversations have begun with Mission Trails Regional Park stakeholders and the City of San Diego, to collectively explore solutions and all angles for the creation of the pedestrian bridge. The family is also working with engineering firms to further understand the planning, design and costs associated with the creation of this bridge.

The Lenail Family plans to contribute and raise significant funds to support and expedite construction of this bridge in Max’s honor to save lives of future park visitors. You can help support this effort by donating to the Fund, by signing the online petition and by joining the donor interest list, sending an email to bridgeformax@gmail.com or helping spread the word on social media using the hashtag #bridgeformax.

  • "I applaud the action taken tonight by the Mission Trails Regional Park Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). The CAC recommended the advancement of the wishes of the Lenail family to build a pedestrian and bicycle bridge at the River Crossing, so long as that is permissible under the Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) Master Plan.  I am excited to vote to advance this plan when MTRP Task Force takes it up later this month, and I encourage my fellow Task Force members to join me in supporting it."
    — Raul Campillo, Councilmember, District 7, City of San Diego
  • “It is important that we make the park as safe as possible every opportunity we have. A pedestrian bridge in Max's memory is one significant way we can ensure the park is safe and accessible for all. Let's not miss an opportunity to save lives and improve a national treasure.”
    — Randy Voepel, Assemblymember, California 71st District
  • “I commend the LeNail family for channeling the emotions of such a tragic experience into a force for positive change for our community. I truly hope that the construction of a footbridge at this crossing will prevent such tragic accidents like this from occurring again in the future. For these reasons, I am proud to support the construction of a pedestrian footbridge at the San Diego River Crossing in the memory of Max LeNail.”
    — Brian W Jones, Senator, California 38th District
  • “I support the LeNail and Yoler Family’s efforts to advocate for a pedestrian bridge at the park. I urge the Mission Trails Regional Park Citizen’s Advisory Committee and Task Force to initiate the process of creating a pedestrian bridge at the San Diego River Crossing Trail in Max’s memory as soon as possible.”
    — Scott H. Peters, Member of Congress, 52nd District
  • “A pedestrian bridge, as envisioned by the LeNail Family and the MTRP Master Plan, at the San Diego River Crossing Trail would be a fitting tribute to Max and help protect future guests. I urge you to move forward with the process of creating a pedestrian bridge at the San Diego River Crossing in Max LeNail’s memory with a design that is budget conscious and can be implemented quickly.”
    — Brian Maienschein, Assemblymember, California 77th District
  • “I am inspired by the efforts of Max's family and friends to advocate and fundraise for creating a pedestrian bridge at the park. As a father and an outdoor enthusiast, I stand in full support of their effort to honor Max.”
    — Nathan Fletcher, Chair, San Diego County Board of Supervisors
  • "I commend the LeNail Family for working tirelessly to advocate and fundraise for this pedestrian bridge in Max's memory. Now is the time to move the ball forward on creating a safe pedestrian crossing that has long been planned"
    — Jim Madaffer, Former Councilmember, Past Chair of MTRP Task Force
  • “A pedestrian bridge would offer safe passage, far better access, and an improved Park experience for visitors of all experience and capacity levels. On behalf of The Escondido Creek Conservancy, I urge you to move forward with the creation of a pedestrian bridge at the San Diego River Crossing.”
    — Ann Van Leer, Executive Director, Escondido Creek Conservancy
  • “During my tenure on the Task Force and as identified in the park’s Master Plan, the danger of the San Diego River Crossing and need for a pedestrian bridge has long been recognized. I ask that you initiate the creation of a pedestrian bridge in Max's memory at the San Diego River Crossing and consider the shortest timeline and the most cost-efficient design options for the bridge”
    — Barry M Jantz, former La Mesa Councilmember, former MTRP Task Force Member