By Michael Graca, Buzzards Bay Coalition Communications Director

The historic, seaside village of Onset, MA will be teeming with sails this summer with the opening of the Onset Bay Center, a hub for on-the-water exploration for children and adults that is operated by the Buzzards Bay Coalition, a membership-supported non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, and sustainable use and enjoyment of Buzzards Bay and its watershed.

Sailing, kayaking and paddling, swimming and coastal exploration will be the focus of the activities offered in a wide array of programs that are planned for the summer of 2020 to be run from the center’s new Onset Bathhouse headquarters. The mission of the center is to get people out on the water, learning to enjoy and appreciate Buzzards Bay and all it has to offer.

“We are thrilled to be offering such a strong and diverse set of programs in our first full year at the Center,” said Katherine Garofoli, Director of the Onset Bay Center. “Everyone who lives around Buzzards Bay should have opportunities to get out and experience the incredible natural beauty that is part of our home. That’s our goal: to get people out enjoying the Bay, learning new skills and making new friends.”


The Buzzards Bay Coalition’s new Onset Bay Center (under construction as this issue went to press) was created to get people out on the water and foster an understanding of the importance of protecting the Buzzards Bay ecosystem. ©


Youth sailing and watersports programs are slated to begin on June 29 and will run through the week of August 10. The schedule will feature seven different sessions each week, including half-day Beginner and Intermediate Sailing, High School Sailing, and Paddling Adventures. The Center also will offer a full-day Bay Explorers program for children ages 7 to 12. The full-day program will combine a wide range of on-the-water activities allowing for discovery, learning, and play on beautiful Onset Bay. Adult and family programs will also be offered. Registration and complete information for all the offerings is available at

This summer’s full slate of programs marks a major milestone in the development of the center. The Buzzards Bay Coalition has been working to renovate and restore the Onset Bathhouse to serve as headquarters for the center. The Coalition is leasing the building from the Town of Wareham, which includes Onset. The beautiful and historic bathhouse, which is located by the town pier at the center of the village, provides the perfect setting for coordinating an active schedule of programs that will serve thousands of local residents.

In an interesting historical twist, the granting of the lease required the legal consent of the original developer of Onset village whose name still exists on the deed for Onset’s beaches and parks. The Onset Bay Grove Association (OBGA) was founded in 1887 and dissolved as a company in 1975. With the support of David and Skip Warr, the grandsons of the last president of the OBGA, the corporation was officially revived through the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office and the lease was signed by David.

“My brother Skip and I are pleased to be able to be a part of making this project possible through the Warr family’s long connection with the Onset Bay Grove Association,” said David Warr. “Both our grandfather and our father were active for many years in the association. The renovation of the Onset Bathhouse as part of the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s plans for the Onset Bay Center will be a boon to Onset and the greater Wareham community.”

The renovated bathhouse, which will open just in time for the start of this summer’s program, is only part of the Coalition’s Onset Bay Center, however. The facility also draws on a complex of scenic, diverse natural lands on Onset Bay, including protected lands at Wickets Island, Burgess Point, and Shell Point Marshes.

The Coalition purchased Wickets Island, a four-acre knob of land with 40-foot cliffs and a broad gathering space at its highest point. Set aside for permanent protection, the island functions as space for programming and as a community picnic area with trails and seating for a one-of-a-kind view of Onset Bay. The Coalition also purchased Burgess Point to expand space for its sailing and coastal exploration programs. The land on the Point harbors a variety of coastal habitats, including maritime dunes, sandplain heathland, and pitch pine-oak woodlands. Its ecological diversity lends itself to support threatened and endangered species found in Onset.

Finally, the Coalition owns and manages nearly 50 acres of rich salt marshes on adjacent Shell Point Bay as a destination for kayaking, paddle boarding, and small boating adventures. This wide, scenic marsh is also open to the public to paddle, fish, shellfish, and explore. To learn more, visit ■