BRISTOL — Better late than never. Lake Compounce, the oldest continually operating amusement park in the country, will join the recently opened Lake Quassapaug in Middlebury in trying to salvage a chunk of this pandemic summer with safety-conscious fun starting Monday, July 6.

The park that straddles Bristol and Southington will have a soft opening July 1-5 for season pass holders and campers — a way to test out new protocols, limited capacity and staff.

There will be social distancing, temperature checks at the parking booths on entry, required masks (except while swimming or on water attractions), sanitizing stations and new cleaning measures.

In a phone chat, Director of Marketing Amy Thomas said the restart is a challenge due to the previous uncertainty over an exact opening date: “It’s a little bit of a scramble to the finish line but we were lucky enough to have a lot of our team members lined up before this happened.”

New this year is the park requiring visitors to RSVP for the day they wish to visit, in addition to having a pre-purchased ticket or Season Pass. The park will only sell tickets and Season Passes online. A release said walk-up sales won’t be available, but Thomas said it’s possible if there happens to be room under the 25% capacity restriction that day. Daily tickets are $44.99 to $26.99.

“It’s definitely more safe to reserve online, because we don’t want to turn anyone around,” she said.

Cash for food items is discouraged, so plan on paying with credit card. There will be touchless utensil and napkin dispensers and plexiglas dividers at food venues.

Also new is the Main Gate Creamery, which replaces the old water race game stand, next to Chuckles gift shop. Think custard, soft serve and dairy-free Dole Whip.

“We got to sample the orange creamsicle today; it was amazing,” Thomas said.

Restrooms will also have reduced capacity with some closed-off urinals and sinks for distancing.

Indoor attraction Ghost Town is expected to open late since it’s dependent on state guidelines, Thomas said. A sign will let visitors know which attractions are not open that day. And one big-ticket new ride, Vortex, will not open until 2021 due to COVID delays.

The Crocodile Cove waterpark will open for the first time this year on July 6, and Thomas echoed one guest’s tip that you carry a ziplock bag to store your mask when you’re on an exempted ride. The train, Boulder Dash coaster and wave pools will be open but the beach will not.

The Compounce team’s season prep stopped dead in March and only resumed fairly recently, she said. With a shorter summer planned, the late start brings a renewed sense of anticipation to the park.

“I think people are very excited to get back to some semblance of normalcy,” Thomas said several days ago. “Just like any other industry, it has been tough for us; it just doesn’t feel right to have the park empty right now. I’m used to hearing screaming kids on roller coasters, and kids getting ice cream all over their face... We’re looking forward to welcoming people back and we hope our guests are equally excited.”

The park is planning to be open daily through Aug. 23 and then weekends through Sept. 20.

Connecticut Media Group