Q&A with Mathew Brock, Mazamas Library and Historical Collections Manager
The Mazamas, formerly known as the Mazama Mountaineering Center (MMC), may be the oldest community organization in the Portland area. And, it happens to be located on the northern edge of the Sunnyside neighborhood at SE 43rd and Washington.
I sat down with Mathew in the middle of July at his office, which is next door to the beautiful and rich Mazamas Library. I wanted to learn more about Mazamas history and programming, his work, and to ask about ways Sunnysiders can get involved in this rad organization. One thing I learned: you don’t have to be a member of the Mazamas to enter its library and peruse its vast collection of travel guidebooks that cover everything from hiking in Yosemite to where to climb in Spain.
What is the Mazamas all about and when did it start?
Mathew: It was founded in 1894 on the summit of Mt. Hood. The Mazamas is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit mountaineering education organization. We offer over 700 hikes and 350 climbs annually. A variety of classes and activities are offered for every skill and fitness level. We’re open to both members and nonmembers.
What’s the organization’s mission?
Mathew: The Mazamas promotes climbing, responsible recreation, and conservation values through outdoor education, advocacy, and outreach.
Can anyone come to the Mazamas library?
Mathew: Nonmembers are welcome to come to our library anytime and review our significant collection of books and guides, but in order to check out the books (take them home) you’ll need to be a member.
What was this gorgeous building before the Mazamas moved in?
Mathew: It was originally a Seventh Day Adventist Church. The Mazamas bought it from the Mount Hood Mason Lodge. We have a second facility, the Mazama Lodge, which is located at the base of Mt. Hood. The Mazama Lodge offers overnight lodging and meals for Mazama members and hosts private events.
What did you do before joining the Mazamas?
Mathew: I worked in applied anthropology with Alaskan natives. For four years I was at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in the Division of Subsistence which is, as far as I know, the only social science-based state research division in the nation.
What is your favorite part of being in Sunnyside?
Mathew: I really enjoy walking around the neighborhood, sometimes with my 14-year-old beagle who occasionally joins me at work, and I like the food carts at the Bite on Belmont food pod between 42nd and 43rd. Pre-pandemic a lot of people in the Sunnyside neighborhood came to our weekly Wednesday night programming.
[Note: Wednesday night programming is still on hold but the organization hopes to bring it back soon.]
And your favorite part of the job?
Mathew: I love telling the stories of this organization. There’s so many good ones and great connections to our city and region.
You must have summited a glaciated peak in order to join the Mazamas. A few of the more commonly listed peaks for membership are Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, South Sister, Old Snowy, and Mt. Adams. Adult membership is $72; youth/student membership is $36. To learn more head to mazamas.org.