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Merritt Island, Florida
Merritt Island 2.JPG
Location in Brevard County and the state of Florida
Location in Brevard County and the state of Florida
Country United States United States
State Florida Florida
County Flag of Brevard County, Florida.png Brevard
Area
 • Total 46.16 sq mi (119.54 km2)
 • Land 16.97 sq mi (43.96 km2)
 • Water 29.18 sq mi (75.59 km2)
Elevation
3 ft (1 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 34,518
 • Density 2,033.94/sq mi (785.30/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
32952-32954
Area code(s) 321
FIPS code 12-44275
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 34,518 at the 2020 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.

History

Etymology

Merritt Island owes its name to the king of Spain. The entire island was part of a land grant given by the king to a nobleman named Merritt.

Post-Columbian

In 1605, Spanish explorer Alvaro Mexia visited while on a diplomatic mission to the local tribes living in the Indian River area. He called the local tribe the 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.

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, 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.

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.

Sea Ray operated a factory on Merritt Island from 1978 to 2012. At one time it employed 1200 people.

Geography

Merritt Island, Florida (southern tip)
South end of Merritt Island

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 47.2 square miles (122.2 km2), of which 17.5 square miles (45.4 km2) is land and 29.7 square miles (76.8 km2), or 62.88%, is water.

Merritt Island is a peninsula. The construction of the Crawlerway in the north (for NASA space vehicles to move to the launch pad over Banana Creek) connected Merritt Island to a mainland peninsula. Merritt Island is still considered a natural island. 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 west, the island is connected by causeways to mainland Brevard County near Titusville and Cocoa on its northern end, and in Melbourne on its southern end.

Fauna

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. 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.

Places on Merritt Island

Merritt Island has several named communities, all unincorporated:

4

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
2020 34,518
U.S. Decennial Census

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.

Library District

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.

Landmarks

  • J. R. Field Homestead
  • Georgiana Church and Cemetery, 19th century
  • Hacienda del Sol, large historic agricultural estate on South Merritt Island (home still exists, property is now a private estate)
  • Haulover Canal
  • Dr. George E. Hill House
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • Mather's Bridge Restaurant (now closed), previously Hacienda del Sol's workers mess hall, was joined by former field workers quarters (since destroyed) across South Tropical Trail at Mather's Bridge
  • Merritt Island Airport
  • Merritt Island (Canaveral) Barge Canal
  • Merritt Island Dragon, destroyed by vandalism, neglect and time
  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • Kiwanis Island Park
  • Merritt Island Rotary Park Nature Trail and Center
  • Pine Island Conservation Area. 950 acres (380 ha) preserve. Pine Island contains Sams House, built in 1875. It is Brevard's oldest standing structure.
  • Old St. Luke's Episcopal Church and Cemetery
  • Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Futch Cove - Banana Creek. Location of Apollo/Saturn Visitors Center

Economy

Personal income

According to the 2000 Census:

  • Median household income = $43,532
  • Median family income = $52,388
  • Median income for males = $41,393
  • Median income for females = $25,787
  • Per capita income = $23,961
  • Below the poverty line:
    • Families = 7.2%
    • Population = 9.4%
    • Those under age 18 = 13.8%
    • Those over age 64 = 7.0%

Industry

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 Space Force Station.

Air Liquide operates a plant there.

Redevelopment

Merritt Island has a redevelopment agency funded by the county.

Education

Merritt Island has several schools.

Public schools are operated by Brevard Public Schools:

  • MILA Elementary
  • Tropical Elementary
  • Audubon Elementary
  • Robert Louis Stevenson School of the Arts
  • Lewis Carroll Elementary
  • Gardendale Elementary (Closed since 2014)
  • Thomas Jefferson Middle School
  • Edgewood Junior/Senior High School
  • Merritt Island High School

Private schools:

  • Merritt Island Christian
  • Calvary Chapel Christian School

Infrastructure

Roads

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, Florida 520.svg SR 520 (Merritt Island Causeway), Florida 404.svg, State Road 404 (Pineda Causeway), Florida 405.svg, State Road 405, Florida 406.svg, State Road 406, and Florida 528.svg 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.

Florida 3.svg SR 3, a 4-lane highway, connects the Kennedy Space Center for workers from the more densely populated central and southern sections of the island.

Sewage

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.

Airports

Merritt Island Airport is a public general aviation airport located on South Merritt Island and run by the Titusville-Cocoa (TICO) Airport Authority.

Notable people

  • Emory L. Bennett, Medal of Honor recipient; lived in Indianola briefly as a child
  • Marco Dawson, professional golfer
  • David Max Eichhorn (January 6, 1906 – July 16, 1986) was a Reform Jewish rabbi, author, and a chaplain in the Army. He was among the troops that liberated Dachau. He founded Merritt Island's Temple Israel.
  • Tony Gayton, film producer with his brother Joe
  • Clint Hurdle, former manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Colorado Rockies (Major League Baseball) (MLB)
  • Zora Neale Hurston, novelist, folklorist, anthropologist
  • Taylor Jordan, professional baseball player
  • Mathew Martoma (born 1974 as Ajai Mathew Mariamdani Thomas), hedge fund portfolio manager, convicted of insider trading
  • Roy Padrick, Navy journalist and actor, born on Merritt Island
  • William H. Peck, college professor, novelist; postmaster for Courtenay
  • Adrian Rogers, Southern Baptist pastor and author
  • Eric Robert Rudolph, Olympic Park bomber
  • Patrick D. Smith, novelist, author of A Land Remembered
  • Cecil W. Stoughton, photographer for John F. Kennedy
  • Günter Wendt, engineer noted for his work in the U.S. human spaceflight program
Black History Month on Kiddle
African-American Astronauts:
Victor J. Glover
Yvonne Cagle
Jeanette Epps
Bernard A. Harris Jr.
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