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OKI Wanna Know: Why does Devou Park have its own police? And, some park quarry queries...

Bill Rinehart
Prisoner's Lake was once a quarry. The name came from the prisoners used for labor around 1916.

Our feature OKI Wanna Know seeks answers for your offbeat questions. This week, we turn our attention to a pair of queries about one of Northern Kentucky's largest parks. WVXU's Bill Rinehart has more on two questions about Devou Park.

Jason Monahan of Covington wonders why the approximately 700-acre Devou Park has its own law enforcement agency.

"I was curious as to why Devou has a special setup for the park ranger component when the other parks don't get that same attention," he asks.

Bill Rinehart
A Devou Park Ranger sits outside the Drees Pavillion.

The answer lies in how Devou came to be a park. And for that long, long story, we turn to the executive director of the Behringer-Crawford Museum, which sits in the park. Laurie Risch says the land was donated by the Devou family in 1910.

"William Devou Sr and (wife) Sarah were here at a time when they dabbled a little bit in the railroad," she explains. "They started buying up the property here. He was actually a milliner. He made hats. During the mid-1800s of course, everybody, every man would have a hat. They had their business in downtown Cincinnati."

Risch says the couple moved a bit south of what is now West Covington, also known as Botany Hills. There, they built a house and raised their sons, William Junior and Charles.

"So William (Jr) and Charles Devou donated the land to the city of Covington in memory of their parents," she says. "William in particular had set up a living trust to be able to help do some maintenance projects, landscaping, things like that. The nine holes of the golf course were put in. Roads were put in. The WPA came 'round and that's when a lot of the stone shelter houses were put in."

Ninety-three years after the gifting, the Drees Pavillion was built. Risch says the money from facility rentals goes into capital projects in the park. She says it's funded walking paths, restrooms, playgrounds and shelters.

"But with that comes the responsibility of having a watch, a watch to make sure everything's going OK, and everything is staying maintained," she says. "So, between the Devou Trust and the Drees Pavillion funding, we were able to get a ranger program into the park."

Risch says today, the rangers direct traffic, offer directions and enforce park rules.

Did the mob really dump bodies in Prisoner's Lake?

Which leads us to another question about Devou. Laura Kinney wants to know the history of Prisoner's Lake. She says she always heard it was dug by prisoners and was used by the mob to dump bodies and cars.

Risch says she's half right. Prisoner's Lake started after Covington city council approved a resolution to start a quarry in the park.

"They went to the Covington jail and asked for the prisoners to begin quarrying it. That's how it started," she says. "Prisoners also realized that it was kind of easy to run away, because nothing else was developed around here. It was 1916. So they ended up eventually stopping, closing the quarry."

Bill Rinehart
A young man fishes at Prisoners Lake in late September, 2022.

Risch says the quarry filled up with water, and became what is now known as Prisoner's Lake. As for the lake being a dumping site for bodies and contraband? She says she's heard the rumors.

"It's funny. There were stories, when the raids would happen at the supper clubs, the police were going up there, the people would come down with their slot machines and dump the slot machines into the lake."

Northern Kentucky was once home to supper clubs that were reportedly run by the mob.

"But, no. It has been dredged a couple of times. There have been divers in there. It is not bottomless. It is probably about 25 feet. And the most things you're going to find in that lake is the fish that the recreation department stock in it."

If you're fishing for an answer to a question no one else can catch, ask OKI Wanna Know by filling out the form below.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.