Rappahannock County will miss the quiet and benevolent — yet also forceful and persuasive — presence of Bob Dennis, who passed away on Sunday. Perhaps more than any other county resident, he was the unwavering champion and loyal leader in efforts to preserve our uniquely beautiful landscape for future generations — to partake of and take nourishment from, just as we and our own predecessors have done.
To accomplish this goal, the best tool available, in Bob’s view, is putting as much of the land as possible in conservation easements. To this end, he would use his considerable powers of persuasion on anyone who would listen. Following through, like a questing knight, he could often be spotted at the county clerk’s office ensuring that the easements were recorded. Then, he would contact the newspaper to make sure that we afforded the proper news coverage that each and every grantor of conservation easements deserved.
Largely because of Bob’s tireless dedication, Rappahannock today has proportionally more of its privately owned land in conservation easements than just about any other jurisdiction in the entire country.
I first became acquainted with Bob many years ago through his help with Fauquier conservationist and canoeist Randy Carter’s lifelong efforts to save the Rappahannock River. Subsequently, in 1981, Bob became executive director of the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), whose founding mission was to preserve the traditional nature of Virginia’s northern Piedmont.
It was under Bob’s watch that the PEC, in what became known as the Fourth Battle of Manassas, thwarted Disney’s 1993 plans to create a history theme park here in the Piedmont. The historic, hallowed ground of the Piedmont landscape doesn’t need to be “Disneyfied.”
In Bob’s wise view, timeless, enduring values, like the land itself, always trump short-term thinking and profiting.
Bob does not need a traditional stone monument in a cemetery; the land itself, its lasting beauty and heritage, marks his time here on earth.