An inside look at the new Onset Bay Center

Apr 1, 2020

The Buzzards Bay Coalition’s new Onset Bay Center is nearly complete, and on track to bring kayaking, sailing, and marine exploration to Wareham this summer. 

After about five years of planning and work, and an investment of over $5 million from the Buzzards Bay Coalition, Kathrine Garofoli, the head of the center, said that the new facility is about 95% complete, and scheduled to open to the public in June. 

The center has been rebuilt from the old Onset Bath House, and will serve as a hub of classes and hands-on programs for both kids and adults.

“One of our main goals is to make on-the-water programming accessible to everybody,” Garofoli said, as well as fostering “a sense of stewardship with the beautiful place that we call home.”

As such, the center will offer programs that will teach participants how to kayak, sail, and other forms of marine exploration, like shellfishing and how to take water quality tests. 

Garofoli said that preference will be given to Wareham, and Buzzards Bay residents, but the programs will be open to people in nearby towns as well.  The center will be offering complete or 75 percent off scholarships to families in certain income brackets to make sure that programs are accessible.

In addition to the Onset Beach, participants will be able to explore Wickets Island and Burgess point. While the majority of the programs will be outside on the water, there will also be indoor classroom and storage space inside the center. 

Upstairs will be a classroom space. Downstairs, there will be storage space for the Buzzards Bay Coalition, Nemasket Kayak Center, and various Wareham town departments. 

Garofoli said that the Buzzards Bay Coalition plans to open the new center in June, but she is actively following guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Massachusetts Department of Public Health regarding social distancing and the coronavirus. 

She said that the coalition is proceeding with summer programs as planned, but is prepared to make changes to keep everyone safe. She added that if programs are canceled, participants will receive a full refund.

The Onset Bay Center is being built by The Valle Group, and according to President Christian Valle, construction workers have been deemed essential, meaning they can continue to work during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Valle said that his company has been limiting the number of workers inside the building at any given time, and has increased its cleaning and sterilization efforts to limit the spread of the virus. 

In regards to the construction process, Valle said that his company benefited from being able to reuse the footprint of the old Onset Bath House. Since the old building was “past its useful life,” Valle said he was happy to turn it into a new asset for the community in the Onset Bay Center. 

For more information on programming, go to Garofoli can be reached by phone at 508-999-6363, ext. 227, or by email at