Merritt Island is a census-designated place in Brevard County, Florida, located on the eastern Floridian coast, along the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 34,743. It is part of the Palm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The name "Merritt Island" also refers to the extent of the former island, which is now a peninsula.
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 island does not belong to any official city. 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.
|Merritt Island, Florida|
Location in Brevard County and the state of Florida
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.
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 andgrapefruit 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.