Set between the rolling foothills of Danville and Alamo, the 16.3-acre park is isolated from the surrounding residential area by mature oaks, pines and sycamores. And even though it’s just a few minutes away from I-680, its beautifully landscaped location gives the feeling of being “away from it all” while still in town.
The three ranch-style buildings can be reserved for activities such as weddings, celebrations, birthdays and corporate meetings.
Hap Magee Ranch Park (1025 La Gonda Way). Hap Magee has a long-storied history. The barn façade at the park entrance commemorates the park’s former existence as a longhorn steering ranch. Before the cattle called it home, there was a summer camp for the orphans of San Francisco, known as Camp Swain. Look for a drinking fountain that commemorates Camp Swain with a plaque and a brick painting of children playing.
Hap Magee’s water element is a mixture of metal tubes that form a tunnel with water spraying inside as children run through and water spraying from the ground. A motion sensor activates the water function in a random circuit. (Please see the water features FAQs in the right-hand column for more information.) This 17-acre park also has walking trails, separate playgrounds for younger and older children, picnic areas and a dog park.
The property was bought 130 years ago in 1874 by Captain Isaac and Ann Trasker Swain on behalf of the San Francisco orphanage. Both Swains thought that the children should have a warm place to go during the damp summers of San Francisco. The San Francisco Protestant Orphanage first took their children to Camp Swain in 1911.
From 1911 to 1952, the orphans came to the valley, using the train and then the buses. They carried their own bedding and a few possessions. At first they lived in tents, but gradually several buildings were built, including a boys’ house, a girls’ house, and a larger community building (called the Rotunda) once located east of today’s I-680 motorway. Two of the former Camp Swain buildings have now been called Cottage and Swain Homes.
Hap Magee Ranch Park
The land was bought from TPL by the County of Contra Costa (on behalf of the Alamo Parks and Recreation Committee, R-7A) and the City of Danville in 1987, each with a half undivided interest. The Joint Power Agreement is dated 22 May 1987. A Joint Committee (two from Alamo, two from Danville, one selected by the other) was set up to oversee the construction and operation of the park. Both organisations are committed to providing fair sums of funding for the planning, growth and support of Magee Park.
Planning for the park started immediately and the Master Plan was adopted in 1988. Phase I was completed within five years, with Phase II planning goals yet to be accomplished.
Three historic buildings on the site have been steadily restored and maintained—an ongoing process. The workers of Danville stayed in and restored the Swain and Magee buildings, which are now available for public rent. Since 1995, the YMCA has been renting the Cottage for administration and activities, having a daily presence in the Park.
In 1993, the East Bay Regional Park District constructed a Cor-ten steel bridge (for walkers, bikers and equestrians) over San Ramon Creek, linking the Regional Las Trampas to the Regional Trail of Mount Diablo. The District also negotiated with its neighbors and strengthened the unique route between Danville Blvd. and the bridge. Artists planned the Orphans’ Memorial Drinking Fountain and the Indian Commemorative Site, both of which were installed in 1997.
Two major projects were completed in the Park in 2005. A sophisticated children’s playground system with a ranch theme is tucked into a property near historic cottages and includes a sand volleyball court, water features, benches and picnic tables. A 1 1/2 acre off-leash large and small dog park with a turf, the Canine Corral, is available north of the cottages.
Hap Magee Ranch Park is a lovely gem of a park that serves the needs of a wide range of park visitors. With the construction of the play structure and the dog park, a family tour that takes the third graders to the Indian site (part of the third grade curriculum), change is taking place in the air.
The Magee Ranch
Hap Magee, a local cattle rancher and an exceptional storyteller, was the next owner. Hap, Ruth’s wife, and their family came to the valley in 1953. They bought the orphanage land and designed another house and other ranch buildings. When the freeway was constructed in 1962-64, the land was heavily graded.
Many people today still remember the small rodeos that Hap held in the northern part of the property. After his death in 1985, the Ruth Magee Property Option was acquired by the Public Land Trust (TPL) in 1986 and held until 1987.
This amazing park is located near the following must-see parks in Danville, California:
- Osage Station Park
- Sycamore Valley Park
- Oak Hill Park
- Diablo Vista Park
- Monterosso Community Park
- Las Trampas Regional Wilderness
- Sycamore Valley Open Space South
- Danville South Park
All of these beautiful parks are located just a short distance from our location in downtown Walnut Creek, Spaulding Concrete on Locust Street!