Trespassers have set up an informal shooting range less than 100 feet from Interstate 95 in Stafford County, frightening neighbors and potentially endangering passing motorists, county officials said yesterday.

Residents said they have seen 20 or more people at a time shooting at makeshift targets in a vacant field off Courthouse Road, just west of the interstate about 40 miles south of Washington.

The wood, metal and paper targets are positioned so that the bullets should travel parallel to the highway or away from it, and state police officials said they have received no complaints about the shooting.

But residents and county officials remain concerned.

"Every day I hear them {and} I worry about it," said Sang Park, who works at the Stafford Shell gas station about 100 yards from the shooting range. "If somebody's hurt, who's responsible? Nobody knows."

The thousands of shotgun shells and cartridges littering the property include discharges from high-powered hunting rifles with a range of 3 1/2 to five miles, said Sylvia Wood, a reporter for the local paper, the Stafford Sun, who took some shells to a gun shop owner for identification. Wood also found shells from an assault rifle, such as an AK-47, and a .357 magnum.

Stafford officials last week cited the four absentee property owners for violating the county's litter ordinance because the land is covered with shells, assorted beer cans and garbage, said Daniel Schardein, director of zoning and inspections.

Beyond that, Schardein said, there is very little the county can do because shooting is legal on the property. Shooting is prohibited only in the most developed parts of Stafford.

"When you've got an urbanizing rural county, problems come up {and} the ordinance just doesn't apply," Schardein said.

The property owners said they are doing all that they can to prevent trespassing and spent $2,000 six months ago to clear their land of garbage and discarded appliances.

"We have put up signs. We have put up chains. We have put up {felled} trees," said owner Margaret Reed, of Woodbridge. "They have all-terrain vehicles and they can get over everything."

Reed, Springfield lawyer John McCollum and two other parties bought 137 acres next to the I-95 interchange with Courthouse Road about 25 years ago as an investment. The owners have contested the litter citation, which gave them 10 days to clean up the property.

"This litter {citation} is a situation of they can't catch the bad guys, so they'll go after the good guys," McCollum said. "We don't feel it's our problem. Those are trespassers."

The owners invited the sheriff to arrest the trespassers, and McCollum also said he would not object to designating the property, which he has used for hunting, as a no-shooting zone.