Exploration center plans, purchase of island intend to make Onset Bay 'active, daily place'

Buzzards Bay Coalition member explains plans to expand opportunities, programs
By Lydia Goerner | May 23, 2017
Photo by: Lydia Goerner Renee Dufour of the Buzzards Bay Coalition displays plans for the new discovery center and other areas that will provide more opportunities to engage with nature.

Wareham residents slurped complimentary seafood bisque from Lindsey’s Family Restaurant as they listened with gusto to plans for the new Onset Bay Discovery Center Tuesday night.

The plans were discussed by Renee Dufour, the vice president of community engagement for the Buzzards Bay Coalition. Dufour said the discovery center, which will be in the Onset Beach bathhouse, will aim to provide outdoor experience, education for the community and access to the water to low-income families.

The restoration will mimic what the structure looked like in the 1930s, bringing it back to its natural and historical beauty.

“The bathhouse was by far the most complicated portion of this,” Dufour said.

The town had to approve the changes and legislative acts were passed to approve the plans. The coalition is still waiting for approval on their request for a 99-year lease of the bathhouse.

When it is finished being restored, the bathhouse will have space for classrooms and events. Even during the offseason, the building will be open for educational and community events and some camping trips in cooler weather.

“It can really become an active, daily place,” Dufour said.

Construction is expected to begin sometime next year and fundraising for the bathhouse will continue for the estimated $2 million renovations.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition has already purchased the 4.5-acre Wickets Island for camping and 21-acre Burgess Point for guided beach, dune and wildlife study. Work on Wickets Island is scheduled to begin in September.

The total project budget, including land acquisitions, building and pier renovation, land and property stewardship and launching community engagement programs is around $5.6 million.

For the immediate future, the first thing people can expect to see is the coalition’s sailing program, which launches this summer for the Wareham Boys & Girls Club.

Wareham residents were interested in how the changes would impact them and how they would be able to utilize the space purchased by the coalition. Dufour said Wickets Island, Burgess Point, docks and the discovery center will be available to the public.

“Has the poison ivy issue been addressed on Wickets Island?” asked one concerned attendee.

“What about the ghosts?” a woman added, met by general agreement about this problem.

Details are still being worked out as the Buzzards Bay Coalition seeks funds and makes its final plans, Dufour assured the group.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a nonprofit organization that seeks to engage people of all ages and get them involved with outdoor activities while building a sense of stewardship in the area. The group began in 1987 and now has around 8,000 members, 300 who live in Wareham and Onset.

Comments (10)
Posted by: Uptohere | May 24, 2017 11:16

What impact does this have on the use of public beach in front of the bathhouse?

Posted by: Uptohere | May 24, 2017 11:17

What impact does this have on the use of public beach in front of the bathhouse?

Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 24, 2017 16:17

There is a Huldra on the island, this may not end well.

Posted by: Chaka | May 25, 2017 20:55

Please elaborate on the islands ghosts. Very interested.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | May 26, 2017 13:35

I never heard ghost stories about Wickets but Bird Island is haunted by the light keeper's wife.

Posted by: Chaka | May 26, 2017 20:21

Do tell! I wanna hear about the light keepers wife at bird island. I looked up Huldra, very interesting.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | May 29, 2017 22:53

Chaka, here you go.


This is from Ghosts of the Massachusetts Lights, by Lee Holloway


Built in 1819, just off Marion, Mass., in Buzzard’s Bay, the little 29-foot Bird Island Lighthouse was recently rescued and renovated by the Bird Island Light Preservation Society.

Around 1830, a former pirate by the name of Billy Moore, was hired as keeper of Bird Island Light, and he and his wife, who had a fondness for tobacco, took up residence in the keeper’s quarters. The citizens of Marion welcomed the couple and made frequent visits to the island, always bringing a little tobacco for Mrs. Moore. Her husband attempted to discourage this practice, alleging his wife had a "consumptive cough."

Several citizens noted that Mrs. Moore often sported black eyes and other bruises and feeling sorry for the lady, continued to supply her with tobacco. Then, one frigid February morning in 1832, the distress flag was flying at Bird Island Lighthouse and, upon arrival, townsfolk discovered the lifeless body of Mrs. Moore. Her husband advised she had "succumbed from nicotine." Somehow, the wily old ex-pirate convinced the group of concerned citizens that his wife had been suffering from "contagious tuberculous" and they wasted no time digging a grave in the soft sand of the beach–the only ground around that wasn’t frozen–and hastily burying the lady.

Later, people got to talking about the bruised, battered body of the lighthouse keeper’s wife and the sheriff decided an investigation was in order. By that time, though, Billy Moore had fled, never to be heard of again.

The next keeper of Bird Island Light didn’t stay long. He quit, declaring he and his family were unable to contend with the ghost of an old woman who kept knocking on the door in the middle of the night. Subsequent keepers had similar experiences and one even claimed his children were repeatedly frightened by the spirit of a "stoop-shouldered old lady" with one arm extended as though reaching out for something.

Although the old keeper’s house was demolished long ago, people still encounter Mrs. Moore’s ghost in the vicinity of Bird Island. When the harbor was frozen over in 1982, Adam Larkin and another Marion fisherman saw what Larkin described as a "disfigured and tattered looking old woman crossing the ice from Bird Island, an old corn cob pipe clenched in her jaw." According to Larkin, they knew she wasn’t real because "she seemed to float over the ice."


Posted by: Chaka | May 31, 2017 20:33

Cool! Thanks for sharing. I love ghost stories.


Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jun 01, 2017 10:49

I heard she moved elsewhere when Geraldo moved in.

Posted by: Chaka | Jun 01, 2017 23:35

Geraldo's (third) marriage to Marion native CC Dyer, ended years ago. I think he's currently on his 5th.


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