This week the off-road community lost a long-time leader when Roy Denner passed away after a 23-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Roy is survived by his wife Nancy of 52 years. My thoughts and prayers are with Nancy and the rest of the Denner family.
Roy and Nancy were avid motorcycle riders. They taught their son to ride at five years of age and also taught many of his friends and their children to ride in the early 1960’s. Roy’s lessons always included a healthy respect for the environment. The love of the sport continued throughout his life and he worked hard to preserve riding experiences for his grandchildren, nieces, nephews and thousands of off-roaders that he didn’t even know.
Roy became active in land-use in the 1990’s as a member of the San Diego Off-Road Coalition (SDORC), where he was the Director of Land Use for several years. He also served as a member of the California Desert District Advisory Council for many years as well as the ISDRA Technical Review Team. For his hard work and dedication, he was named OHV Volunteer of the Year by the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division in 1999.
After the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was used to close a huge chunk on the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area in 2000, Roy saw the writing on the wall. He knew that off-road businesses needed to band together and form a non-profit trade association that could go on the offensive to stem the tide of closures. From there, the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) was born. Roy worked tirelessly to grow the organization and make it a powerful force not only in the political arena where Roy knew off-roaders must become influential, but also within the land management agencies that carry out the laws and the will of those in office.
Appeasement with environmental extremist wasn’t part of Roy’s mode of operation and I think that is what I found most refreshing about Roy. He knew all too well that every time off-roaders compromised meant that we lost access to another acre and our way of life would slowly die with each battle. Roy was aggressive at a time when off-roaders needed direction, and we are all indebted to him for pushing us in that direction.
I had the privilege to meet Roy in person back in about 2002 at a political fundraiser in Sacramento. Thanks to the internet, I had read a lot about Roy and when I shook his hand for the first time, I told him that he was my hero. Being a newbie in the world of OHV closures, Roy was bigger than life to me. I had seen how the ESA and Wilderness designations worked as perfect tools for environmental extremists and knew that my favorite sand dune in Nevada would soon be in their sights. I tapped Roy to help with the fight to keep Sand Mountain Recreation Area open, and I know that without his help and guidance, we would have lost a lot more.
Roy was tireless in the fight for the rights of off-roaders, and future generations are indebted to the passion he brought to the table year after year. Roy wasn’t the kind of guy that wanted anyone to fuss over him, and he didn’t care much for memorial services, but he will be missed by many. I thought it would be fitting to have off-roaders tell us about how he made a difference to them.
If you have something you would like to say about Roy, please send an email and/or photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rest in peace Roy…
To view a tribute to Roy, please go to:
ORBA Founder Roy Denner Passes Away