State Senate passes Onset Bay Center lease legislation for Wareham

Jul 05, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat State and local officials celebrate the approval of a 1-year lease between the town and Buzzards Bay Coalition, paving the way for a renovation of the Onset Bathhouse. On July 5, the renovations moved forward again as the state senate approved a 99-year-lease.

Plans to turn the Onset Bathhouse into a hub of marine recreation and education took a step forward July 5. That's when state lawmakers OK’d Wareham’s request to sign a 99-year-lease for use and renovation of the building.

According to officials, the Onset Bay Discovery Center will provide high-quality, on-the-water programs to the community and engage hundreds of people of all ages each year in a variety of active outdoor activities to foster a sense of stewardship toward the coast.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is spearheading the effort. The environmentally-minded nonprofit is currently in the midst of a multi-million dollar fundraising campaign. Plans call for a $5 million renovation of the bathhouse. When finished, it will serve as headquarters for a year-round, full-time staff dedicated to facilitating a myriad of water programs, designed to get kids exploring and falling in love with Buzzards Bay. Currently, the coalition has raised $2 million.

With the adoption of a bill in the Massachusetts State Senate, co-sponsored by State Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), the bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. There, it will be heard by co-sponsor Rep. Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham).

The special legislative act was required because of restrictions placed on the land by a 1915 court case. The outcome of the case required that the “parks, streets, avenues, paths, and shore fronts” in Onset were “dedicated to the public forever” for bathing, boating, fishing, parks and open space. The decree was accepted at Wareham Town Meeting in 1917.

“Tremendous potential is on the horizon for Onset Bay, and the Senate recognized that today,” said Pacheco. “If we want our community to care for our coasts, we have a responsibility to provide enrichment and education opportunities. This center will serve our residents well.”

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