Merritt Island, Florida
|o Total||47.2 sq mi (122.2 km2)|
|o Land||17.5 sq mi (45.4 km2)|
|o Water||29.7 sq mi (76.8 km2)|
|Elevation||3 ft (1 m)|
|o Density||740/sq mi (280/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))|
|GNIS feature ID||0294625|
Merritt Island is a census-designated place (CDP) in Brevard County, Florida, United States, located on the eastern Floridian coast, along the Atlantic Ocean. The population was 34,743 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Palm Bay - Melbourne - Titusville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The name "Merritt Island" also refers to the extent of the peninsula, misnamed an "island".
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center are located on the northern part of Merritt Island. The southern area is heavily residential, with centralized light commercial and light industrial areas.
The central part of Merritt Island, previously known as Merritt City, is home to the majority of the population and includes the local high school, library, and shopping district.
Archaeological excavations have uncovered the fossils of extinct animals such as mastodons, giant land tortoise, camel, glyptodont, horse, mammoth, giant armadillo, peccary, and tapir, which lived in the area up to 11,000 years ago. Their extinction was part of a larger North American die-off in which native horses, mastodons and other camelidaes also died out. Possibilities for extinction include global climate change and hunting pressure from the arrival of the Clovis people, who were prolific hunters with distinct fluted stone tools which allowed for a spear to be attached to the stone tool. This megafaunal extinction coincided roughly with the appearance of the big game hunting Clovis culture, and biochemical analyses have shown that Clovis tools were used in hunting camels.
In 1605, Spanish explorer Álvaro Mexía visited while on a diplomatic mission to the local tribes living in the Indian River area. He called the local tribe of Ais people, part of the native province of Ulumay. Merritt Island is the prominent island on a color map he drew of the area, a copy of which is in the archives at the Library of Congress and the archives in Seville, Spain. Within a few years, all but a handful of these natives were dead from an epidemic that plagued the area after the arrival of a shipwrecked British merchant.
In the 1760s, the Elliott Plantation grew sugar and milled it. Remains of the plantation can be found in the Wildlife Refuge. In April 1788, French botanist André Michaux traveled in Merritt Island, near Cape Canaveral. He spent five days looking for plants. He wrote a letter on April 24, 1788 from St Augustine. He reported discovering the flag or bigflower paw-paw, Asimina obovata (Annona grandiflora (Bartr.)).
In 1837, Fort Ann was constructed on the east coast of Merritt Island near the present day Haulover Canal, to protect the area against the Seminoles. Merritt Island's recent history dates back to the mid-19th century and centers on the growth of citrus, stressing the cultivation of pineapples and oranges. The Indian River oranges and grapefruit come from this sandy area. Freezes destroyed the local pineapple industry in the late 1890s. Freed slaves constructed small towns in the area after the Civil War, including Haulover, Clifton, and Shiloh.
The island's population grew in the 1950s and 1960s as the Space Race began and nearby NASA expanded. Construction of a barge canal to the Intracoastal Waterway from the Atlantic Ocean (for power plant oil shipments) cut off the northern half of the island for many years. To this day, the northern portion of the island remains slightly less developed, with a few areas remaining as cattle pasture or citrus land. The small towns on the island vanished with the coming of the Space Age, and now only live on in the names of streets and historic churches. In 1988, citizens defeated a proposed incorporation into a city, 77% opposed to 23% in favor.
Merritt Island has always been a peninsula. It connects to the Florida mainland where SR 3 now intersects US 1 in Volusia County. To the west and south it is separated by the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The east side of Merritt Island splits and is divided by Sykes Creek and Newfound Harbor. They, in turn, are separated by the Banana River Lagoon from Cocoa Beach, Florida.
To the north, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, along with a narrow barrier island that make up Canaveral National Seashore, offer an unpopulated protected buffer area for rocket launches at Kennedy Space Center. There are about 356 species of birds on the peninsula, one of most diverse in the country. Migratory birds join the more resident wildlife, including alligators, manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, bald eagles, ospreys, bobcats, and the elusive Florida panther. A number of bald eagle nests are monitored atop power line poles along SR 3 within Kennedy Space Center.
There are about 12,000 feral pigs in North Merritt Island. Licensed trappers catch about 2,000 annually, which keeps the population even. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service would like to reduce the population.
Merritt Island has or had 23 named communities, all unincorporated, including:
As of the census of 2000, there were 36,090 people, 14,955 households, and 10,049 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 2,044.6 people per square mile (789.5/km2). There were 15,813 housing units at an average density of 895.9 per square mile (345.9/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 90.22% White, 5.31% African American, 0.41% Native American, 1.65% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.68% from other races, and 1.66% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.83% of the population.
There were 14,955 households, out of which 27.1% had children under the age of 18, 52.9% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband, and 32.8% were non-families. 26.8% of households were solely individuals and 11.4% had a lone resident of 65 or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.86.
In the CDP, the population was spread out, with 21.8% under the age of 18, 6.1% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 26.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.8% of 65 or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.
According to the 2000 Census:
There are light industrial fabrication centers on the Merritt Island Airport, and NASA-related industrial activities to support the Space Shuttle, which was retired in summer of 2011, and other rocket launches on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Merritt Island has a redevelopment agency funded by the county.
Merritt Island has several schools.
Public schools are operated by Brevard Public Schools:
The Merritt Island Public Library, though a part of the Brevard County Library System, is a state-designated special library district. Since Merritt Island is an unincorporated area of Brevard County, in 1965 the area applied for, and was designated, a special library district under Chapter 65-1289 by the Florida Legislature. In 2005, the Florida House of Representatives codified all special acts and amendments, in regards to the Merritt Island Public Library District, under HB 1079.
The residential areas of Merritt Island, East and West Merritt Island, are only accessible by causeway or drawbridge at all points. The island is linked by causeways, SR 520 (Merritt Island Causeway), , State Road 404 (Pineda Causeway), , State Road 405, , State Road 406, and SR 528, to the barrier island to its east and the mainland to the west. Mathers Bridge connects the southernmost area to the barrier island.
The lift station near the Pineda Causeway was built to handle 9,000,000 US gal (34,000,000 L) per day. It became overloaded after Hurricane Irma in 2017. Trucks were used to dispose of the excess which rose to 12,000,000 US gal (45,000,000 L) daily.
Merritt Island Airport is a public general aviation airport located on South Merritt Island and run by the Titusville-Cocoa (TICO) Airport Authority.