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The late Lionel Bentley of Washington, Oklahoma, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy with a focus on turf management from OSU in 1970. After serving in the Oklahoma National Guard from 1966 to 1972, Bentley began a career with the City of Norman, working first as an assistant park superintendent, then as director of the Parks and Recreation Department.


While serving as director, Bentley assisted in creating the Park Land Dedication Ordinance, requiring new residential development to allocate land for public parks. He also created the Norman Park Foundation, a private nonprofit that supports the development and improvement of public parks and recreation facilities in Norman.


Bentley retired from the City of Norman in 1984 to pursue the full-time operation of Bentley Turf Farms, a progressive, full-service turf establishment and erosion control company, which he owned and operated until his passing in 2022, the same year the company celebrated 40 years.


Bentley was a great supporter of the OSU turfgrass program. He was known as a turfgrass sod pioneer in Oklahoma, offering customers U-3 bermudagrass, Tifway bermudagrass and his own Gracemont bermudagrass. In addition to developing his turf-type tall fescue sod, he also was one of the first in the state to offer Meyer Zoysia grass and El Toro Zoysia grass.


Bentley served as president of the Oklahoma Recreation and Parks Society. He also served as president of the Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation in Norman and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in November 2021. He was a board member for the National Recreation and Park Association and the American Parks and Recreation Society.


As a director of the Norman Park Foundation, he made substantial private donations used to fund projects, including Westwood Park Golf Course and the development of Bentley Park. His work, dedication and support of public parks and recreation will benefit Oklahoma for years to come.


Bentley’s wife, Lou, will accept the posthumous award in his honor.

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