Riding is my Ritalin - Youth, Adults, and NEMBA

Monday, February 1, 2021

Catching up with Kris Haralson and Lawrence Kovacs from the Six Rivers NEMBA Chapter


Lawrence Kovacs is an educator, a former Outward Bound instructor, and a champion for youth riding. He is passionately committed to getting more people on bikes, starting with those who have not yet learned the N+1 equation in school. (N+1 being the appropriate number of bikes to own, where N is the current number of bikes that you own).

In 2017 Lawrence received a grant from Specialized to run a curriculum on safe bike riding in his Bath, ME school. The grant included 25 hardtail bikes and allowed him to make riding bikes an almost daily occurrence for students during fair weather. Lawrence truly believes that mountain biking can enrich the lives of these students and lead to a better learning day. Often, he reaches out to students who “need this” time; an opportunity to get out of a classroom, exercise their bodies and engage their brains in an exhilarating and mind-consuming technical pursuit.

Ever the enthusiast Lawrence expanded his vision to the area around him, looking to create even more opportunities for better mountain biking. The best leaders envision the future and then find the right movers and shakers to help make it happen. This is very evident with Lawrence tapping Kris Haralson on the shoulder to help drive the local mountain biking scene forward. Kris is another strong advocate for youth programs, who over the past four years has been coordinating, and filling to capacity, an after-school riding program in Brunswick and Topsham.

Finding an enthusiastic and robust riding community in the three towns of Bath, Brunswick, and Topsham, they looked for a common thread to bring them all together. Finding none, they made the decision to create one!

After meeting with past NEMBA Executive Director, Philip Keyes, and evaluating the needs for the area including the ridership and the opportunities for partnerships, the Six Rivers NEMBA Chapter was born in 2018. The concern for local trail access and the network of knowledge, advocacy, and support available as a NEMBA Chapter ultimately solidified this decision. Huge kudos to the original chapter officers of Lawrence (first Chapter President), Kris, Jack Bateman, Channing Jones, and a few others for their dedication and creation of a robust chapter! 

The Chapter promptly got to work and has already had two major success stories leading to more and better trail access. In 2018 the chapter rallied volunteers, collaborated with land trusts, and helped design and build four miles of beginner friendly trails at Neptune Woods in Brunswick. In 2019 Six Rivers collaborated with the town of Topsham, who they described as “Pro-Outside” and amazing to work with, to unveil 5 miles of single-track. These are described as accessible trails that are fun and a great place to have safe family riding. They are still adding and updating features to Topsham such as a bike skills park and plan to continue to add some technical features as the trails settle.

This is all in addition to helping to secure and maintain trails in Bath, which Lawrence describes as wonderfully scary and fun once you get to know them but are also the driving force for the desire to create the new novice-friendly trail systems. Not to stay idle for long the Six Rivers Chapter extended their riding season and started grooming the Neptune and Topsham trail systems for winter. There is a standing invitation for all you fat bikers to head their way and check out these trails in the snow!

Kris Haralson is now at the helm as Chapter President, steering the Six Rivers ship through the murky waters of town politics and trail access advocacy as he heralds in the next era of projects. In 2020 Six Rivers also added their first female board officer, Kristin Jhamb, and they look forward to her help tenaciously moving forward projects in their slice of the mid-coast of Maine while building relationships with local riders, landowners, and conservation groups.

This is one Chapter to keep your eye on for big and exciting things coming over the next few years… maybe including one of the largest pump tracks in the state… or New England… time will tell.

submitted by Crystie