Driving the Lost Coast through the spot on the map that is Petrolia, it is hard to miss the community skate ramp. Perched in a field adjacent to the Mattole Valley Community Center, it is one of only a scattering of landmarks dotting the rural landscape. As a former resident of Petrolia, I’ve witnessed faces marveling at the sight as they drove by. “Who on Earth uses that ramp in the middle of nowhere?” they seemed to wonder. The answer is: everyone. In Petrolia, the Mattole Half Pipe is a heart of the community, a gathering place for young and old — not just skateboarders. Toddlers crawl and run on the ramp, then turn into teenagers giggling and whispering with their legs dangling over the coping. Adult musicians perform to hoots and hollers on the ramp as a stage. It is a hub of community life in a tiny hamlet.
A lifelong skater, Dave Grant moved to Petrolia in 1996 and shortly thereafter began taking his two young boys skateboarding at the Mattole School campus. Without many safe havens for play, other kids soon joined them. The informal gatherings grew until school authorities got nervous. Skateboarding on campus was a liability. So the skaters ventured to the streets, skating along the road near the general store instead. Concern for the children’s safety mounted. One local parent in particular took the helm in rectifying the issue. Bev Haywood’s idea was to form a 4-H skating club, which could give the kids legal status to be allowed on campus. “If it wasn’t for Bev, there would be no ramp. There would have been no skateboarding club. None of this would have happened,” says Grant…. read more >