Cupola controversy comes to close at Onset Bathhouse

Oct 2, 2019

The new Onset Bathhouse will not have a cupola — following an outpouring of outrage from Onset residents.

The two-story bathhouse, which is being rebuilt and expanded by the Buzzards Bay Coalition, currently sports a mock-up of a cupola. When they saw the work-in-progress, many residents complained that it would obscure the view of the bay from the bluffs.

“We talked to a lot of people last week — some in favor, some opposed,” said Buzzards Bay Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “In the end, we decided not to do what is up there now at all so as not to impact the view and to instead look at alternatives.” 

The renovation was first proposed in 2015, and the Coalition signed a lease with the town in 2017. The $5.3 million dollar renovation will allow the coalition to offer year-round programming with two classrooms, bathrooms, and a locker room. The bathhouse would also provide wet storage for boats, kayaks and life jackets. The bathhouse will also serve as a base for programming on Wickets Island and Burgess Point, where the Coalition owns land.

Rasmussen explained that the cupola was designed to bring more sunlight into the meeting rooms and classrooms on the second floor, so the coalition is now looking into skylights or another alternative that would be “beautiful and functional but doesn’t take away from the view of the park.”

Kat Jones, the executive director of the Onset Bay Association and a board-member of the Buzzards Bay Coalition, said she also heard from many people who were opposed to the cupola, but thinks that the vast majority of people are fans of the  overall project.

“I think it’s really positive for the community,” Jones said, citing the many free and low-cost programs the Coalition offers, including swimming lessons, sailing lessons, and quahogging workshops.

Rasmussen said the Coalition hopes to finish construction and open the reconstructed bathhouse with a full slate of programming in the spring. The Coalition is currently looking to hire someone to be the director of the Onset Bay Center (the new name for the Bathhouse), and will be looking to hire staff for the spring this fall. 

Programming will definitely include swimming and sailing lessons alongside exploration and coastal ecology. The coalition is also looking into offering both group and single shell rowing programs, shellfish aquaculture, and windsurfing.

The goal, Rasmussen said, is to “connect people with the water any way they get excited.” 

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