Dyan Leto is truly rooted in nature. As the City of Portage Parks and Recreation Superintendent, Leto spends most of her day immersed in all-things parks, but outside of that, Leto still finds herself spending time at one of Portage’s many parks.
“I'm a park person by nature, so it really aligned with my position now and my past involvement with county parks and things like that,” Leto said.
Leto’s passion for parks began while she was living in Indianapolis and working at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. After moving back to the Region 13 years ago, Leto continued working in various parks entities including Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center and Deep River County Park.
Leto stepped into her current position as parks superintendent in June 2022. As a Portage resident for over a decade, Leto has a new appreciation for the work that goes behind some of her favorite city events.
“I'm really still getting my footing trying to learn more. As a resident, I don't think I paid attention to it as much as I do now. I loved my city, but I never paid attention to all the little things that go into it,” Leto said.
Indiana’s diverse natural features are often overlooked compared to the tall mountains and vast canyons of the east and west, but Leto feels there is much to love about the natural landscape within northwest Indiana.
“I love the Dunes,” Leto said. “We're so lucky to have them so close. I spend a lot of my time specifically at the Portage lakefront and then in the park trails around. Portage has a lot of park diversity. We have trails, we have parks, we just have so many options here.”
Leto’s favorite, however, conveniently doubles as Portage Parks Department’s home base. With a dog park, plenty of trees, and an abundance of wildlife, Woodland Park never fails to bring a smile to Leto as she begins and ends her workday.
“I really love Woodland Park. It’s where our offices are, and it is beautiful. There's always wildlife. The other day I was watching a deer eat a pumpkin while I was just sitting at work. We also have a dog park here, so it's really fun to drive to work every day and see dogs running around. I really enjoy those little things,” Leto said.
Even after the day is done, Leto can’t seem to get enough of northwest Indiana parks.
“Hanging out in parks is my job, but it’s also what I do most in my free time,” Leto said.
Leto also enjoys spending time with her husband and three teenage daughters. Leto especially cherishes their time together as her daughters’ schedules get busier. With one daughter in college and the other two near the same age, spending time together has become one of Leto’s favorite pastimes.
“Any time that I get when everyone's together, my husband and my three kids, that's a real blessing with everybody's busy schedules. Having time with all five of us together is my favorite thing because that is very rare,” Leto said.