Buzzards Bay Coalition announces new summer programs for Onset Bay

Feb 28, 2018

The Buzzards Bay Coalition will offer new, expanded water programs for youth this summer as part of the nonprofit's ambitious, multimillion dollar plan to transform the Onset Bathhouse into an educational and recreational hub.

Buzzards Bay Coalition President Mark Rasmussen told Selectmen the news Tuesday, saying there will be several full day programs available. Last summer, the coalition launched a pilot sailing program to test the waters regarding new activities.

“The biggest thing we learned was youth sailing works great in Onset Bay,” Rasmussen said.

The coalition has plans to turn the bathhouse, which had been Onset’s heart in years past, into a headquarters for a myriad of water programs, designed to get kids exploring and falling in love with Buzzards Bay, officials said.

The coalition is currently working to raise $5.3 million to rebuild the bathhouse. When finished, it will be renamed the Onset Bay Center and serve as a place to house year-round staff and store boats and equipment for the programs.

Classes focused on swimming, kayaking and lessons on coastal ecology will be added this summer. There will be six weeks of all-day programs available through the Gleason Family YMCA, Wareham Boys & Girls Club and the Wareham Public Schools summer program.

Rasmussen said improvements to Wickets Island in Onset Harbor will also begin this spring. Remnants of a mansion on the island will be removed, as will invasive plants and poison ivy. Improvements include rebuilding a staircase and stone pier located on the island. Construction will start in the spring and be completed in the fall, Rasmussen said.

He also updated Selectmen on Onset Bathhouse fundraising efforts. After a recent grant from the state's Seaport Economic Council, the project has $3.3 million. More than $2 million of that comes from private gifts and pledges. Rasmussen said he expects the remaining funds to come from private donors as well.

A recent Seaport Economic Council grant gave the Buzzards Bay Coalition the confidence to know it will break ground on the bathhouse this year, Rasmussen said. He said construction is slated to begin when the beach season ends in 2018 and to finish by Memorial Day 2019.

The coalition plans to transform the 19th century bathhouse into a 21st century facility that both honors its original intent while actively providing additional educational and community services, officials said. The coalition has a 99-year lease with the Town of Wareham for the use and renovation of the Onset Bathhouse as well as its surrounding grounds. The lease was approved in August by state lawmakers.

Selectmen said they were impressed with the progress.

“This should make everybody happy who thought it would never happen,” said Selectman Patrick Tropeano. “It seems like it’s moving along at a pretty good pace.”