Wareham Conservation Commission reviews plans for Onset Bathhouse reconstruction

Aug 1, 2018

The Buzzards Bay Coalition presented the Conservation Commission plans for a multi-million renovation of the Onset Bathhouse Wednesday night and fielded questions from residents who had concerns about the project’s impact on the beach.

The New Bedford-based Coalition, which is dedicated to restoring and protecting Buzzards Bay and its watershed, seeks to transform the historic Onset Bathhouse into a two-story recreational and educational hub offering a myriad of programs.

To date, the nonprofit has raised $3.45 million of the $5.3 million needed to demolish and rebuild the dilapidated building. Once finished, the bathhouse would allow the Coalition to offer year-round programming with two classrooms, bathrooms and a locker room. It would also provide storage for boats, kayaks and life jackets. Additional renovations carried out by the coalition have removed invasive plants from both Wickets Island and Burgess Point. A floating dock and picnic area will be added to Wickets Island later this year.

Over the past two summers, the Coalition has launched programs from Onset Beach in conjunction with the Wareham Boys & Girls and Club and the Wareham Public Schools CARE Program. The programs are for children ages 8 to 12 and include lessons on swimming, sailing, kayaking and coastal ecology.

On Wednesday, Coalition President Mark Rasmussen reviewed construction plans with the Conservation Commission.

Rasmussen and Bill Madden, an engineer with the Wareham-based GAF Engineering, said invasive species would be removed and a 16-square-foot permanent ramp installed in front of the new center for launching equipment would be part of the plans. Madden noted developers are waiting for a waiver from the state to build in the flood zone. Current regulations would force the developers to build the structure at a higher elevation than preferred, which would mar the view from those using a nearby park on the bluffs.

Lisa Morales of Onset asked that the ramp be removable for environmental reasons. She also raised concerns about the removal of vegetation.

Sandy Slavin, Conservation Commission Chair, said the board would weigh those considerations.

Madden agreed.

“We can look into that between now and the next meeting will discuss if that’s feasible,” said Madden.

The Conservation Commission continued the hearing to Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Multi-Service Center.