Everyone who lives on Buzzards Bay should have access to experience the natural wonders of our coast. The Coalition’s developing Onset Bay Center will offer high-quality on-the-water programming for thousands of people every year. Through a variety of outdoor activities such as sailing, paddling, shellfishing, and shoreline ecology, the center will help community members of all ages build a personal connection with our local environment.

Features of the Onset Bay Center

The Onset Bay Center draws on a complex of scenic, diverse natural lands on Onset Bay, all anchored and supported by the Onset Bathhouse headquarters on Onset Beach. Protected lands at Wickets Island, Burgess Point, and Shell Point Marshes will be core destinations for the center’s on-the-water programming.

Onset Bathhouse headquarters

Architectural rendering of the Onset Bay Center headquarters

The Coalition will transform the 19th century Onset Bathhouse into a 21st century facility that honors the building’s original intent while actively providing educational and community services.

The Coalition will transform the 19th century Onset Bathhouse into a 21st century facility that honors the building’s original intent while actively providing educational and community services, including:

  • Reconstructing and expanding the original second level to serve as a classroom and gathering space for programs, meetings, administration, and daily gatherings.
  • Boat storage for a fleet of small sailboats, rowboats, kayaks, and SUPs on the main level, just steps from the water’s edge.

These plans were officially greenlighted in 2017, when the Wareham Board of Selectmen signed a 99-year lease of the bathhouse to the Coalition and Gov. Charlie Baker signed the town’s plans into law. Construction on the Onset Bathhouse is expected to begin after Labor Day 2018, with a goal to bring the Onset Bay Center to life in time for summer 2019.

Wickets Island

The centerpiece of Onset Bay is Wickets Island: a wooded, 4.6-acre island with 40-foot cliffs and sandy shores. In 2016, the Coalition permanently protected Wickets Island with funding support from the Wareham Community Preservation Fund.

The Coalition is currently working to restore Wickets Island to improve safety, public access, and natural habitats. These improvements will include:

  • Removing invasive plants and the remnants of an old house at the top of the island to create a picnic area where visitors can take in a one-of-a-kind view of Onset Bay.
  • Building a new steel staircase and short loop trail to lead visitors to the picnic area and around the island.
  • Rehabilitating the island’s crumbling granite pier and adding a new floating dock to permit boaters to safely tie up while visiting the island.
people kayaking in Onset Bay near Wickets Island

The Buzzards Bay Coalition purchased Wickets Island in 2016, forever protecting this centerpiece of Onset Bay from development.

Burgess Point

Burgess Point will become a core destination for Coalition-led ecology and sailing programs. Youth participating in summer programming will learn how to sail RS Quests, which can hold an instructor and up to four students. With a stable hull and spacious cockpit, these boats are an excellent choice for beginner sailors.

Shell Point Marshes

Along secluded Shell Point Bay sit nearly 50 acres of rich salt marshes that will become a destination for kayaking, paddleboarding, and small boating adventures. This wide, scenic marsh will be open to both Onset Bay Center program participants and members of the public to paddle, fish, shellfish, and explore.

For more details about the latest on the Onset Bay Center, download the most recent Onset Bay Center Community Update from March 2018.

Onset Bay Center programming

Two sailboats in Onset Bay at a Buzzards Bay Coalition program

During Onset Bay Center summer programs, Wareham youth will learn the basics of swimming, kayaking, and sailing while also exploring for fish, crabs, and more.

Although the Onset Bay Center’s completion is still a year away, the Coalition will be leading another great summer of youth and family activities on Onset Bay in 2018. These activities include programming with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater New Bedford/Wareham, Wareham CARE, and the Gleason Family YMCA.

Summer 2018 programming

During these three two-week-long sessions, Wareham youth will learn the basics of swimming, kayaking, and sailing while also exploring for fish, crabs, and more. Outstanding sailing instruction will be provided by the Community Boating Center of New Bedford.

  • Session 1: July 9-20 (Wareham Summer Fun Program)
  • Session 2: July 23-August 3 (Wareham CARE)
  • Session 3: August 6-17 (Wareham Summer Fun Program)

These full-day programs are open to 9- to 12-year-olds. For more information and to register, please contact the Boys & Girls Club of Greater New Bedford/Wareham (Wareham Summer Fun Program) or the Wareham Public Schools (Wareham CARE).

Funding to provide this pilot programming is due in part to a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education Quality Enhancements in After-School and Out-of-School Time (ASOST-Q) Program.

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Working to Save Buzzards Bay

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

We work to protect clean water on the Bay and on the land: