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.

Onset Bay Center summer 2019 update

Summer 2019 update sign on the Onset Bay Center (click image to open full size version)

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 began in fall 2018.

We’ve stopped construction on the Onset Bathhouse for summer 2019 so everybody can enjoy the beach. Construction will start up again in September, and the Onset Bay Center will come to life in time for summer 2020.

Wickets 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.

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. We’re currently working to restore the island to improve safety, public access, and natural habitats.

In fall 2018, we completed the first phase of improvements, which included the removal of invasive plants, poison ivy, and the dangerous remains of a house. The top of the island will eventually become a community picnic area with trails and seating for a one-of-a-kind view of Onset Bay.

Looking ahead, a second phase of restoration will install a float, repair a crumbling stone pier, and replace the staircase to the top of the island. The newly restored picnic area will open to the public once restoration is complete.

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.

Onset Bay Center Programming

Four kids and a CBC instructor heading out on a white sailboat with green and white sails.

Kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Wareham on one of the Coalition’s Quest sailboats in Onset Bay during the summer 2018 sailing program.

Although the Onset Bay Center’s completion is still a year away, the Coalition is gearing up for another great summer of sailing, kayaking, swimming, and outdoor exploration on Onset Bay in 2019.

In July, the Coalition will kick off our third year of Onset Bay summer programing for children from the Boys and Girls Club of Wareham and Wareham CARE. These kids will discover the best of Onset’s waters and coasts through four weeks of shoreline exploration, kayaking, sailing lessons with Community Boating Center and Mass Maritime Sailing, and swimming lessons with Gleason Family YMCA instructors.

Explorers of all ages can also get outdoors with the Coalition through a number of exciting Bay Adventures in Onset this summer, including sailing, paddling, and quahogging. Nemasket Kayak will be open in a temporary trailer for rentals and guided tours.

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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: