March 17, 2018
Buzzards Bay Coalition Gets $350K for Onset Bay Center

February 18, 2018 — The Buzzards Bay Coalition, a nonprofit partnership based in New Bedford that works to restore, protect, and sustain the use and enjoyment of Buzzards Bay and its watershed, recently received $350,000 to help fund a multi-million dollar project that will transform a bathhouse into a regional boating center.

The grant, awarded by the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council, will be used to restore the historic Onset Bathhouse to serve as the headquarters for the coalition’s developing Onset Bay Center.

When completed, the building will be known as the Onset Bay Center and serve as a site to house year-round staff, store boats, and other program equipment. It will provide on-the-water exploration programming for thousands of people every year.

The center will also aim to help community members of all ages build a connection with Buzzards Bay through activities such as sailing, paddling, shell fishing, and shoreline ecology.

Mark Rasmussen, president of the Buzzards Bay Coalition, said, “As part public yacht club, part coastal ecology school, part rowing boathouse, and part community center, the Onset Bay Center will be a new gateway to the wonders of our local environment.

“These high-quality on-the-water programs will reinforce the connection between Wareham residents and their local maritime heritage, aid in the revitalization of Onset Village, and create generations of future Buzzards Bay stewards.”

The coalition is working in close partnership with Wareham to rehabilitate the bathhouse to serve as a headquarters, community learning center, and boat storage facility for the Onset Bay Center. The Coalition will transform the 19th century bathhouse into a 21st century facility that honors its original intent while actively providing additional educational and community services

Construction on the Onset Bathhouse is expected to begin after Labor Day, with an estimated completion date of summer 2019.

Bathhouse restoration will include reconstruction and expansion of the original second level to serve as a classroom and gathering space. To ensure its resilience to sea level rise and coastal storm damage, this new space will be built as an independent, pier-supported structure that is elevated above the flood zone but merged architecturally with the standing beach structure to appear as one building.

The coalition is currently working to raise $5.3 million to support the conversion project. It said less than 30% of the funds will come from local, state, and federal government sources such as the Seaport Economic Council, with most of the funding coming from private donors and foundations.

With the addition of the Seaport Economic Council grant, the Coalition has raised $3.32 million to date.

A bill allowing the Town of Wareham to give the Buzzards Bay Coalition a 99-year lease for the use and renovation of the Onset Bathhouse, as well as its surrounding grounds, was signed into law last summer by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The coalition, a partnership between United Way of Greater Fall River, United Way of New Bedford, and United Way of Plymouth County, is supported by more than 8,000 individuals, families, and businesses.

The coalition, incorporated as nonprofit in 1987, involves volunteers from Westport to Woods Hole- in the collection and analysis of bay water quality in 30 major coves and harbors along Buzzards Bay's shores.

It also engages thousands of children in the classroom, on the bay, and in the watershed through year-round educational programs, protects the important lands for conservation in the Buzzards Bay watershed, and works with town officials, business leaders, legislators, and citizen groups to clean up problem spots and serve as advocates for open space protection, coastal habitat restoration, and redevelopment.

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