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The Pav YMCA in Berwyn is for the birds…and butterflies and lots of other wildlife with a new wildlife habitat currently in the works, featuring our beautiful native Illinois flowers and grasses.

The habitat is being created in front of the YMCA, at 2927 S. Oak Park Ave. "Y" Executive Director John Usmial said he was intrigued by the idea after being approached by Art Gara and Leslie Cummings, a volunteer trainer with the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program.

The completed habitat will be certified by the NWF later this year and will be named the "Loren Fillmore Camp Memorial Wildlife Habitat" in memory of the long-time "Y" supporter who passed away in 2001. "I thought it was a great idea," Usmial said. "Before, all we had there was a bunch of rocks, now we'll have something of beauty in memory of someone who really cared about the 'Y' and its programs."


The front of the building faces south. The bed is 66' x 4 1/2', excluding the area under the overhang (which was not planted so the staff could wash the windows.)

6" of crushed limestone and a weed screen were removed and 6" of topsoil added to prepare the bed.

The habitat will include native Illinois grasses and flowers as well as some small rock piles, birdfeeders, birdbaths, and birdhouses.

Pav Before...

The natural area is expected to not only beautify the YMCA's front yard and provide habitat for local wildlife, but also to be an educational tool for children taking classes at the YMCA and their parents.

Art, who donated the plants for the site, suggested the YMCA as a potential spot for a wildlife habitat after having seen the open area lacking in landscape in front of the building. "It just seemed like the obvious place to start," he said. "And native plants are beautiful, hearty, good for the environment, and good for wildlife."


Art with Leslie Cummings

Art planted the flowers and grasses in November - right before the first freeze.

At left, Leslie Cummings and Art Gara inspect the soon-to-be-gorgeous wildlife habitat.

Now Cummings is working with Usmial and YMCA staff to complete the wildlife habitat, which should be finished later this year.

"I'm really excited about this. The habitat is in a great location to be enjoyed by many people - and, of course, local wildlife," Cummings said. "Native plants and wildlife habitats attract a lot of birds and butterflies, which are interesting and fun to watch." But wildlife habitat goes beyond just the fun and interesting. Natural habitat helps wildlife survive.

The 300 sq. ft. bed in front of the Pav YMCA was planted with a nice assortment of native wildflowers, grasses and sedges, which will bloom from spring through summer and into the fall.

The bed was mulched with pine bark mulch and the unplanted area under the overhang with pine bark nuggets.

Cummings is hoping this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. "I've grown Art and Linda's plants in my own yard and I know how beautiful and hearty they are.

New Garden

I hope to work with Art and Linda on future wildlife habitats in this area," she said.

"I really believe we need some wildlife habitat here in Berwyn, not only for our local critters, but also for children who really don't get a lot of exposure to nature in developed suburbs."

Cummings, Gara,  Usmial & Swicionis

At right, Leslie Cummings, Art Gara, John Usmial and Jamie Swicionis - YMCA youth and family director, who is working to create activities for summer day camps which will revolve around the habitat and nature education - pose in front of the newly completed Loren Fillmore Camp Memorial Wildlife Habitat.

Art and Linda's Wildflowers was honored by the Pav YMCA for their donation of the wildlife habitat, by this sponsor banner, which proudly hangs over the swimming pool, a nice engraved plaque and three free tickets to the pancake breakfast in March.

Pav Banner

New Planting


Some of the garden was replanted in the spring of 2002.

A birdbath, different mulches, rocks and logs were added to enhance the habitat.

Our friend Joseph Standing Bear, president of Midwest SOARRING, which educates people about living in harmony with the land and wildlife, held a moving spiritual blessing ceremony for the habitat this summer.

For more information on wildlife habitats, go to the National Wildlife Federation website at


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