What We Do
Pensacola Beach, is owned by Escambia County, Florida, and is under the direction of the Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA). The SRIA was created by the Florida legislature in 1947 under Chapter 24500. The SRIA does not receive tax support from the taxpayers of the county. It is fully funded from rental fees collected from business and residences on the beach.
The Authority is made up of six members, five are named by members of the Escambia County Board of County Commissioner and whose term is the same as the commissioner who appointed them. The sixth member is elected by the registered voters on Pensacola Beach. The sixth members' term is two years.
Because of restrictions placed in the legal document from the United States government, land may not be purchased on Pensacola Beach; instead property is rented by the Island Authority for varying periods of time.
Pensacola Beach is about 1,474 acres, which make up approximately 30% of Escambia County on Santa Rosa Island. Pensacola Beach is about eight miles long and a quarter mile at its widest. At the present time 60% of Pensacola Beach is public use or public service land with the remaining 40% rented for residential and commercial use.
The white sand beaches on the island are made up almost entirely of quartz - that is the reason for the "sugary white" feel and look.
An early settlement was established on Pensacola Beach in 1559 by Don Tristan De Luna making this the oldest development site in the United States. This development was destroyed by a hurricane a few years later allowing St. Augustine to take the title of the oldest "continuous" development in the United States.
All departments with the exception of the Public and Recreational Facilities Department are located at the SRIA's administrative office at 1 Via de Luna Dr., Pensacola Beach, Florida. Office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Public and Recreational Facilities Department is located at 33A Via de Luna Dr. (behind the Via de Luna shopping center) Pensacola Beach, Florida. Operational hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Historical Information on Santa Rosa Island
- Santa Rosa Island is approximately 50 miles long and one-quarter mile wide at its widest point. On its lee side is Pensacola Bay at the western end and Choctawhatchee Bay at the east - with Santa Rosa Sound connecting the two.
- The white sand beaches on the island are comprised almost entirely of quartz - hence the "sugary white" texture and appearance.
- Excavation of middens on the island reveled that Native Americans inhabited these beaches as long as 2,000 years ago.
- A second Spanish colony was established on the island in the 18th century.
- A cross on Ft. Pickens Rd., located in a dune preserve, marks the site where the first Christian services were held in 1559 shortly after De Luna landed.
- Ft. Pickens on the western end of the island was one of the few forts in the South that remained under Union control during the Civil War.
- The famous Native American Geronimo, who was a leader of the Apache Nation, was held prisoner at Ft. Pickens after his capture in the west.
- The small island located to the north of Pensacola Beach is called Sabine Isle and is owned by the Federal government. Ships coming to the Port of Pensacola dumped their rock ballast at this site creating this island.
- In the late 1920's, a recreation building called "The Casino" was constructed on the site where the new performance pavilion is located. This structure remained until the early 1970’s when it was removed. During its history, it was used as a ballroom, restaurant, men's dormitory, gift shop, bathhouse, and other assorted uses.
- Escambia County took title to the land from the United States Department of Interior in 1945. In 1947, the State of Florida legislature created the Santa Rosa Island Authority to administer and oversee the growth of Santa Rosa Island.
- All of Pensacola Beach is owned by Escambia County under the jurisdiction of the Santa Rosa Island Authroity. All land on the island is under lease from the Authority to individuals or corporations. No land is held under fee simple title due to deed restrictions imposed on the county by the Federal government when the island was purchased in 1945.
- 1956, February 14, the easternmost 4 miles of this property was leased to Santa Rosa County and is now administered by Santa Rosa County and known as Navarre Beach.
- 1970, the United States, by an Act of the Congress, created the Gulf Islands National Seashore as part of the Department of Interior. The State of Florida deeded approximately 8 miles of Santa Rosa Island known as the Ft. Pickens State Park to the Department of Interior for inclusion in the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
- 1973, January, Escambia County deeded to the United States Department of Interior, through the Gulf Islands National Seashore approximately 7.5 miles of land located on the east end of Pensacola Beach touching the western most boundary of Navarre Beach.
- 1973, the present four-lane Bob Sikes Bridge was constructed connecting Pensacola Beach (Santa Rosa Island) to Gulf Breeze on the Santa Rosa County peninsula. Another bridge connecting the eastern end of the island is located at Navarre Beach.