By Dan Guttenplan
Howard Granat remembers 20 years ago when mountain biking was viewed in a negative light by those who wished to preserve state parks.
"We were a bunch of 20-somethings then," Granat said. "Now, we're in our 40s and 50s, and we have kids. It's tough to dispute when parents want to bring their kids into the woods and teach them about bike safety, fitness and nature."
Granat will offer local kids that opportunity Saturday when he starts the Kids Mountain Bike Ride Series at Maudslay State Park. The series coordinator, Granat hopes to attract 20 to 25 local youths who are looking to learn basic mountain biking skills.
Certified Ride Leaders and the Mountain Biking Patrol will accompany riders ages 6 to 16 through Maudslay State Park from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday's ride will be the first of a three-part series. Granat will also organize free rides July 28 and Oct. 6.
"With childhood obesity at the forefront of the national discussion, mountain biking is more of an accepted sport of choice," Granat said. "Our kids' health is important. We have to have better forums to get kids outdoors. Some kids aren't into team sports. I was one of those kids."
Granat has organized other mountain bikes rides through the New England Mountain Bike Association. In October 2010, he led a Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day in Maudslay State Park.
"A number of parents don't even know about the trail systems available in state parks," Granat said. "The kids come back from these rides, and they're really pumped. This is something we offer parents to either come out and ride with us as a group, or drop the kids off. They can feel that their kids have a safe place to go outside."
The first half-hour of Saturday's session will include a safety tutorial. All children are required to bring their own bikes, which will be checked for safety, and helmets. The riders are then tested for aptitude and divided into groups. A patrol officer will accompany each group.
For more information or to register, visit www.nsnemba.org.