ORBA Founder Roy Denner Passes Away

| October 3, 2009 | 0 Comments
Roy Denner

Roy Denner - Photo courtesy of Del Albright

By Jon Crowley

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 jon@utvweekly.com.

Rest in peace Roy…

Cory Hove, Owner of Alba Action and founding member of ORBA and member of the ORBA Board of Directors
Roy Denner’s passion and dedication to off road recreation was unsurpassed. Probably not many recreationalists realize that their ability to enjoy the desert and dunes can be largely attributed to Roy’s efforts which included lobbying in both California and Washington, and founding the Off-Road Business Association, a nationwide organization of businesses affiliated with off-road recreation.

Jenny Hove
One of my memories of Roy was during the preparation for the 2nd ORBA Supershow. Roy asked me to meet him in the hospital to go over details of event.  Hooked up to an IV and various other monitors, he had his laptop going full speed.  Cancer would not stop his vision to spread awareness of ORBA. I hold great admiration for Roy.

Don Amador, BlueRibbon Coalition
Roy was a champion for OHV access.  I first knew him when I was on the OHMVR Commission in the 1990s and Roy was working hard to site a OHV park in San Diego County.  I was impressed with his energy and commitment.

Roy was also a friend and a gracious host.  I will miss him on the battlefield.

Del Albright, BlueRibbon Coalition Ambassador
Roy brought life and passion to the off road world.  His determination was etched on his face, yet his smile was endearing and made him easy to get close to.   He didn’t like to put up with nonsense and he got things done. Roy was a hero in our field, not to mention his family life.  I already miss him.

Ed Waldheim, Past CA OHV Commissioner, Past President CORVA
Roy Denner was one of those rare folks who understood what was at stake for access to our public land. He created ORBA to make the link with businesses, something that regular organizations did not have time or energy to do.  As Roy envisioned ORBA it was a winning combination for all of us.  He worked without any rest for days and days.  His vision and energy will be sorely missed by all his friends.

Jim McGarvie, Off-Road Business Association
Roy was nothing if not a perfectionist. I would at times feel frustration that we were not accomplishing as much as we might because Roy was trying to be perfect. I would tell him “let’s not sacrifice the good on the altar of the perfect” (I don’t remember where I heard that, but I thought it apropos). Roy wasn’t impressed. I think he thought that was merely an excuse of a lazy man. And he was probably right. He would go ahead and do it his way. And get it done. And it would be perfect.

Charlene Bower
Roy was a ray of sunlight and always had a warm “Hello, Charlene!” ready and waiting.  I always knew I would see him on the trade show circuit where he would be posted up at the ORBA booth ready to talk, or in the aisles talking to key companies about what they could do to help keep the land open, and in turn their businesses.  His passion showed through his words, his movements and his vast knowledge of the issues at hand.  We have sadly lost a key leader in our fight.

Bill Dart, Off-Road Business Association
Roy was truly an exceptional man who made a big difference in the OHV world.  His passion was infectious and his ability to motivate others to get involved and to contribute substantial resources and time set the high mark in the OHV community.  Roy was a full throttle kind of guy who went flat out all the time in everything he did.  Roy worked harder than anyone I know and inspired others to do more because of his example.  He was a fighter to the end, and will be sorely missed by everyone he touched.

Michael Sommer, Sand Sports Magazine and ASA Board of Directors
Roy Denner was not only an off-road industry leader, he was a trusted friend. I will forever remember Roy for his strong will, outgoing personality, and for the countless things he did to help the off-roading community during the past 25+ years. He will always be remembered in my book as a selfless man that worked hard and volunteered his time to maintain the quality of off-road recreation that he enjoyed — that we have all come to enjoy. We have lost a friend, a leader, and a hero that fought for the rights of other Americans

Pete Conaty, Pete Conaty & Associates
Roy Denner with Nancy’s support was a true leader in the off road community.  He formed the Off Road Business Association to get the business community behind the recreational groups to fight off the environmental extremists attacks on off road recreation.  He is a truly irreplaceable warrior.  I fear for the future of off-roadr ecreation in California without leaders with Roy’s drive and energy.

Marty Fiolka, Dirt Sports Magazine
I had the honor of knowing and working with Roy through ORBA, the Off-Road Impact shows and many more industry functions. I will never forget the phone call he and Nancy made to me when they recieved the ORBA Give-Away Alumi Craft that John Cooley built for his organization (along with many others). The nice part is that we were able to present Roy with a ORI Lifetime Achievement Award at the last Impact show in Anaheim. There may not have ever been a more deserving person.

Vaya con Dios Roy. May you rest in peace knowing you made the world a much better place for the entire off-road community you loved so much.

Steve and Sherri Kukla, San Diego Off-Road Magazine
We are saddened to report the loss of a dynamic, passionate crusader for off road rights. Roy Denner, founder of the Off Road Business Association passed away today, September 28, 2009 after a 23 month battle with pancreatic cancer.

Roy slipped away quietly in his home in the presence of his wife of 52 years. Nancy writes “he took his last breath while I was giving him a goodbye kiss. He had a very peaceful, pain free passing. His long battle is finally over and he is at peace. I am surrounded by close friends and family.”

Roy devoted the last 15+ years of his life fighting legal battles on behalf of off road enthusiasts. He invested so many thousands of hours into this endeavor that in his final years he scarcely had time to participate in the sport himself.

Roy will be missed by many and we are all deeply indebted to the Denner family.

Vince Brunasso, American Sand Association
Roy was  a fine gentleman whose actions were deeply rooted in old fashioned values of God and Country.  His passing is a great loss, not only to  the  OHV community, but to the American way of life.

Grant George, Past President of the American Sand Association and President of Funco Motorsports
Working side by side for many years on Off Road Access with Roy was a high point of  my life and a true honor. The off road community has lost a great warrior, and some of us have lost a great friend.

Bob Crandall, ATVs Today
I’m saddened to hear of Roy’s passing. Roy was a guest on my internet radio show “4 Wheeling Today” many times. We have lost a true friend and warrior for this sport. He will be missed.
Jim Bramham, American Sand Association BOD, member of the ISDRA TRT and Dumont Dunes TRT
My first thought of Roy is what a warrior for public land management! His ability to communicate and foster his conviction that public lands are a crucial part of our societal fabric. His championing of the of benefits of motorized recreation and the human dimension in land use planning. All in a wonderfully creative, motivated and effective nice guy backed every inch of the way by the love and spunk of Nancy!

Ed Stovin, President San Diego Off-Road Coalition
I have been going to SDORC meetings for about 12 years now.  At every meeting, the highlight was the land use report where Roy Denner would stand up and talk.  He would talk about our land use problems for 20, 30 minutes or more.  He was in it so deep, I would listen in awe.  At one meeting shortly after the big closure in the sand dunes, he said “what we need is a business trade organization to to help fight these battles.”  Then he got this look on his face, like, yes, that’s exactly what we need, and he set out and built ORBA from the ground up.  He then pulled five organizations together to support a lawyer so we could fight back.  The fact that so much land is still open for us is a tribute to Roy and all he has done for us.
Deedee Kerr, San Diego Off-Road Coalition
Roy was such a endless bundle of enthusiasm and well known for being a bit of a fun loving rascal. At our SDORC meetings, Roy would always stand up and give us the latest update on ALL of the hot off-road issues. This became known as “Roy’s Rant”! But of course, we can’t forget that Nancy was always on the sideline correcting him now and then… if needed. Roy will be so dearly missed.

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