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June 18, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Mima Mounds visit has a gunfire soundtrack

Trails and a small visitor center at Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve in rural Thurston County. (photo by Chris Joseph Taylor/The Seattle Times)

Trails and a small visitor center at Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve in rural Thurston County. (photo by Chris Joseph Taylor/The Seattle Times)

When land-use planning goes bad:

For Father’s Day, my college-graduate daughter and I planned an outing near her Olympia home. I’d read and heard about Mima Mounds, the oddly interesting geographical wonder in rural Thurston County where myriad 6-foot-high earthen mounds of mysterious origin fill a large natural prairie, and had always wanted to visit. Theories on the mounds’ origin range from earthquake action to glacial melting to — no kidding — really active gophers.

We packed a lunch, brought along the watercolor paints and some tablets on which to record some of the wildflowers for which the place is known, and drove south in the sunshine.

The narrow, forest-lined entry road to the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, a state Department of Natural Resources site with lots of winding trails, promised a place of peace and beauty. The site is highly prized as a preserve of natural Puget Sound prairie and native plants.

As soon as we got out of the car, it was pretty, alright, but the other half of that equation — the “peace” part — was a non-starter.

A little sign posted at the entry kiosk explained. “Hear gunshots?” it asked, going on to note that a firing range was nearby. But the targets were in the opposite direction, so don’t worry about bullets zinging over your head.

That didn’t solve the fact that the noise could not be ignored. It was gunfire, long and loud and pretty much nonstop, coming from the Evergreen Sportsmen’s Club, next door on Marksman Road.

Why had none of the articles I’d read over the years mentioned this? The range has been there since the 1970s. I hadn’t had time to research Mima Mounds online before heading south or I’d have found lots of debate on sites such as Yelp about whether the gunfire ruins the “natural wonder” atmosphere or not. On Sunday, it made the place feel like a war zone.

We took a quick look around and then drove to nearby Millersylvania State Park for our picnic and a nice walk in the woods.

Gun folks, go ahead and write your defensive comments if you really feel the need. My point is simply to inform others who have also heard about Mima Mounds and might be planning a picnic with the family, and maybe a little communing with nature: There are lots of natural wonders that don’t include a gunfire sound track. Mima Mounds isn’t one. Now you know.

0 Comments | More in Northwest | Topics: Mima Mounds, Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, Thurston County

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