Located next to popular Onset Pier, Onset Beach, and nearby Wickets Island, the Onset Bay Center will provide on-the-water exploration programming for thousands of people every year. The center will help community members of all ages build a connection with Buzzards Bay through activities such as sailing, paddling, shellfishing, and shoreline ecology.
The Coalition is working in close partnership with Wareham to rehabilitate the bathhouse to serve as a headquarters, community learning center, and boat storage facility for the Onset Bay Center. The Coalition will transform the 19th century bathhouse into a 21st century facility that both honors its original intent while actively providing additional educational and community services.
“As part public yacht club, part coastal ecology school, part rowing boathouse, and part community center, the Onset Bay Center will be a new gateway to the wonders of our local environment,” said Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “These high-quality on-the-water programs will reinforce the connection between Wareham residents and their local maritime heritage, aid in the revitalization of Onset Village, and create generations of future Buzzards Bay stewards.”
The Onset Bay Center draws on a complex of scenic and diverse natural lands on Onset Bay, all anchored and supported by the Onset Bathhouse headquarters. In 2016, the Coalition protected Wickets Island and Burgess Point, which will be the core destinations for the center’s on-the-water programming. Last June, the Wareham Board of Selectmen officially greenlighted the Coalition’s plans to create the Onset Bay Center by signing over a 99-year lease of the bathhouse.
The rehabilitated bathhouse will complement Onset Village by providing space and resources for programs, meetings, administration, daily gatherings, and storage for boats and equipment.
Bathhouse restoration will include reconstruction and expansion of the original second level to serve as a classroom and gathering space. To ensure its resilience to sea level rise and coastal storm damage, this new space will be built as an independent, pier-supported structure that is elevated above the flood zone but merged architecturally with the standing beach structure to appear as one building. Down below, small boat storage and support for local shellfish growing efforts will interact directly with beachgoers just steps from the water’s edge.
Construction on the Onset Bathhouse is expected to begin after Labor Day, with a goal to bring the Onset Bay Center to life in time for summer 2019.
The Coalition is currently working to raise $5.3 million to make the Onset Bay Center vision a reality. Less than 30% of those funds will come from local, state, and federal government sources such as the Seaport Economic Council. The majority of funding will come from private donors and foundations. With the addition of the Seaport Economic Council grant, the Coalition has raised $3.32 million and is actively raising private funds.
The Seaport Economic Council helps Massachusetts’ coastal communities develop and improve local assets to leverage economic growth. The Council also awards grants to create jobs and build resilience to climate change.